Leafs players say Lemieux has right to speak out

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:22 PM ET

TORONTO - Maple Leafs players figure Mario Lemieux has every right to speak his mind.

But where they have respect for the owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who will not be fined by the National Hockey League for his criticisms of the league in the wake of the Penguins/New York Islanders brawls on Friday night, Leafs forward Clarke MacArthur does not feel the same way about Islanders forward Trevor Gillies.

The latter was suspended for nine games for his part in the brawling during a 9-3 Islanders victory.

“The guy has no class,” MacArthur said. “I’m not afraid to say that. Every time we have played there, he stands there and yells the whole game. I’m glad (the NHL) gave him a suspension. He deserves it.”

Gillies went after the Penguins’ Eric Tangradi, for no reason, apparently, other than to hurt him. Michael Haley tried to be a one-man wrecking crew, taking on Pittsburgh goalie Brent Johnson and Matt Martin, got four games for suckering Max Talbot.

The Penguins’ Eric Godard received an automatic 10-game suspension for coming off the bench to aid Johnson.

Lemieux, one of the greatest players in the history of the sport, said in a statement on Sunday that the NHL failed with its chance to send a message that the actions were unacceptable.

“He has a right to say what he wants to say,” MacArthur said. “It’s Mario Lemieux. That game was ugly. Guys could have really got hurt. A few guys did. Just the whole way it went down, the Islanders had a few guys in their lineup who looked like they were ready to do something.”

Said Joffrey Lupul: “I like that he voiced his opinion. He has an opinion and he is sticking up for his players, and that is probably what he should do.”

Coach Ron Wilson sat on the fence.

“You speak sometimes when you are frustrated,” Wilson said. “The league has a really hard job to decide who should be suspended and not, for whatever reasons.”


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