SUN Hockey Pool

Sutter weighs in on Lemieux

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:14 AM ET

DENVER — Brent Sutter is as old-school as anybody in today’s NHL.

Still, the Calgary Flames coach doesn’t want to see the goon-show exploits witnessed in Friday night’s brawlfest between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins.

That said, he doesn’t think people should over-react.

Which is exactly what some folks think Penguins co-owner Mario Lemieux did when he came out swinging at the league Sunday.

“It’s a high-intensity game and the league did what they thought was right, but you can understand where Mario’s coming from, too,” Sutter said. “We certainly don’t want to take steps back in that direction and have it be a weekly occurrence.

“It is a highly competitive game and stuff is going to happen, but it’s something that hasn’t happened a whole lot in the last few years.”

On a night the Islanders beat the Penguins 9-3, there were 346 penalty minutes, 10 ejections, 15 fighting majors and 20 misconducts.

In the aftermath, the league suspended Islanders forward Trevor Gillies nine games for a brutal attack on Eric Tangradi, while Matt Martin was banished four games. Pittsburgh’s Eric Godard was given a 10-game banishment for leaving the bench.

The Islanders were also fined $100,000.

However, Lemieux said in a statement the punishment wasn’t enough and questioned whether he wanted to be involved in the league any longer.

“Hockey is a tough, physical game, and it always should be. But what happened Friday night on Long Island wasn’t hockey. It was a travesty. It was painful to watch the game I love turn into a sideshow like that,” the statement read. “The NHL had a chance to send a clear and strong message that those kinds of actions are unacceptable and embarrassing to the sport. It failed.

“We, as a league, must do a better job of protecting the integrity of the game and the safety of our players.  We must make it clear that those kinds of actions will not be tolerated and will be met with meaningful disciplinary action.

“If the events relating to Friday night reflect the state of the league, I need to re-think whether I want to be a part of it.”

Flames defenceman and NHLPA player Robyn Regehr wasn’t surprised with the way Lemieux reacted.

“The tough thing about discipline is there’s usually two sides of it — the person getting the discipline and the victim. Either way, when something’s handed down, one side’s not going to happy so there’s going to be some complaints,” Regehr said.

However, Regehr doubted the theory the Islanders planned an attack in retribution for a game a week earlier.

“I think it’s just spontaneous emotion by players and teams. The playoff races are getting close and there’s lots of intensity out there,” he said. “By no means do I think guys sit around and say, ‘Oh look, this is what happened. Why don’t we go out and do that tonight.’

“That’s not what happens. Usually something happens on the ice, an incident, something from the past, a game getting out of control. Guys want to get into it emotionally a little bit more. It’s a coincidence that some of that has happened in a bit of cluster here recently.”

Cory Sarich said the issue of hits to the head is bigger than one game which became out of control.

“It’s just (Lemieux’s) opinion and everybody can give their opinion,” he said. “If it was happening all the time it would become more of an issue. I still think if there’s a comment needed to be made, it needed to be directed toward the head hits.

“I think the league needs to get firmer with the head hits so I think all of his comments, if you transfer over to head hits would fit perfectly.”

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/RandySportak


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