Lemieux blasts NHL for 'sideshow' fallout

New York Islanders' Michael Haley and Pittsburgh Penguins' Craig Adams fight, Feb. 11, 2011, in...

New York Islanders' Michael Haley and Pittsburgh Penguins' Craig Adams fight, Feb. 11, 2011, in Uniondale, N.Y. Jim McIsaac/Getty Images/AFP

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:35 PM ET

Hockey Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux ripped the NHL Sunday for going easy on the key combatants in Friday's brawl-filled game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders.

Lemieux, now the co-owner of the Penguins, didn't pull any punches after the league handed out what he felt were light suspensions that didn't send a strong message, suggesting he might "re-think" his involvement in the NHL.

"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," Lemieux said in a statement. "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 NHL issued suspensions Saturday totalling 23 games to three players and handed out a fine of $100,000 to the Islanders organization. Penguins enforcer Eric Godard was given an automatic 10-game ban for leaving the bench to fight Islanders forward Michael Haley, and Islanders Trevor Gillies and Matt Martin were suspended nine and four games, respectively.

The punishment wasn't harsh enough, though, according to Lemieux, and won't act as a deterrent.

"The NHL had a chance to send a clear and strong message that those kinds of actions are unacceptable and embarrassing to the sport," Lemieux said. "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."

Friday's game between the Penguins and Islanders was an ugly one, with 346 penalty minutes, 10 ejections, 15 fighting majors and 20 misconducts. It came on the heels of a fight-filled game Wednesday between the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens that featured more than 180 minutes in penalties.

Islanders general manager Garth Snow wasn't pleased with the ruling either. But for a different reason.

"When I saw the suspensions on both sides and the fines, I was a little bit surprised it was just our club that got fined," Snow told reporters before Sunday's game against the Buffalo Sabres. "I'm very proud that our team showed restraint."

Sens send down three

The Ottawa Senators assigned forwards Bobby Butler and Jim O'Brien and goalie Robin Lehner to Binghamton of the AHL Sunday.

Butler scored his first NHL goal Saturday in Edmonton. He has one goal and one assist in 10 games with the Sens. O'Brien has been held pointless in four games.

Lehner started three of six games during his call-up, the fourth this season. He has a record of 1-3-0 and goals-against average of 3.40 with the Sens.

Quick hits

The Chicago Blackhawks sent defenceman Nick Leddy and forward Jeff Taffe to Rockford of the AHL. Leddy, 19, had two goals in 18 games with the Blackhawks while Taffe had no points in his Chicago debut on Saturday ... The Atlanta Thrashers called up forward Spencer Machacek from Chicago of the AHL and put defenceman Freddy Meyer on injured reserve, retroactive to Feb. 3 ... Forward Zach Hamill was assigned to Providence of the AHL by the Boston Bruins. Hamill has played in just three games with the Bruins this season ... The Carolina Hurricanes sent forwards Zach Boychuk and Brett Sutter to Charlotte of the AHL and recalled forwards Zac Dalpe and Jerome Samson.


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