Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Islanders Brawl: Rethinking Hockey

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Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Islanders Brawl: Rethinking Hockey
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

With one of the ugliest, most gruelling games in league history behind them, the NHL decided not to act upon the 346 penalty minutes, 10 ejections, 15 fighting majors or 20 misconducts handed out during Friday's "matchup" between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins.

Instead, Colin Campbell and company decided to back down and allow hockey to become a slugfest sideshow on Long Island.  

Frankly, Mario Lemieux's words were harsh, sharp and to the point, but I believe they are not enough to get the league to slow down this unstoppable train.  Lemieux's words may be just the tip of the iceberg.

As Lemieux said, hockey is a rough-and-tumble sport.  Hitting, fighting and the like have been in the league almost since its inception.  It will never be ousted from the game.

However, Friday night's game was not hockey.  

It was not respectful.  

It was not played professionally.

It was a travesty to the game and hurts the league's reputation.

The league's handing out of a 10-game suspension to Pittsburgh's Eric Godard was automatic once he left the bench.  

However, Trevor Gillies' nine-game suspension for hitting Eric Tangradi high and then fighting him was nowhere near a reasonable suspension with regards to severity, especially after Gillies furthered the altercation by taunting Tangradi as he was being aided by the Penguins training staff.

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Matt Martin's play on Maxime Talbot, which was reminiscent of Todd Bertuzzi's 2005 sucker punch on Steve Moore, only garnered a four-game suspension.

The math simply does not add up with Godard's 10 games for simply leaving the bench, while Gillies and Martin combined have 13 games.

While Campbell stated that the league is looking at eliminating shots to the head, as in the case of Martin on Talbot, he did not follow up on his words.

Apparently Campbell does not practice what he preaches.

Micheal Haley's fight with goalie Brent Johnson was another untouched subject.  Haley was ejected from the game after 39 minutes but was not given any suspension afterwards for his fight with the Penguins goalie.  

However, Godard's leaving of the bench to defend his goalie was given a suspension—though automatic, the charges did not fit the crimes.

Perhaps the league should set a tougher standard for games where teams are going at each other in this fashion.  A league-wide fine for teams who are assessed upwards of 75-100 PIM in a game individually and an extra fine for a combined amount of PIM over 150-200.

If the NHL is going to be a strongly led league in its policies and regulations of order, the punishments must match the crimes.  Bertuzzi wasn't allowed to play any more hockey after he sucker punched Moore.  Martin's intent was to do somewhat the same.  

Is there any difference between intent and the follow-through?  

Four games for Martin is a simple slap on the wrist for what should be considered an NHL capital offense.

Until league leaders such as Colin Campbell and Gary Bettman get rules and policies put into place to prevent future brawls of this magnitude and ugliness, expect more and more formers stars and others to be putting their two cents into the state of the league.

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