Brawl on Ice
I have a couple of clarifying questions for Mario Lemieux, who, yesterday, issued a statement responding to the Pens/Islanders full-out war on Friday night.
"It was sad."
"Felt like watching Slap Shot."
"The most ridiculous ‘game’ I’ve ever seen."
"It was a street fight."
It’s not often you’ll hear a Penguins hockey game described in those ways because the nature of hockey is that even if you lose, fans say, "We’ll get ’em next time."
Apparently "We’ll get ’em next time" is what the Islanders said after their goalie Rick DiPietro was taken out on February 2 with facial fractures sustained from one single punch by Penguins goalie Brent Johnson, the new Chuck Norris of Penguins hockey—a title left vacant by Gary Roberts.
Revenge was on the menu for this rematch, resulting in more than 340 combined penalty minutes, fighting that was occasionally interrupted by hockey and only two Pens players left on the bench as the final seconds ticked off the clock, leaving fans dumbfounded by the brawl they’d just witnessed on the ice under the guise of a National Hockey League game.
When the dust settled, the barroom doors no longer swinging, the blood cleaned up, the wounds stitched and the egos nursed, the Pen’s Godard was automatically suspended for ten games for leaving the player’s bench to fight (a big no-no), while two of the Islanders were suspended, and the entire Islanders organization fined $100,000.
And then on Sunday, like a lighting bolt from the sky, like a puck to the teeth, like the angry voice of God coming down from the Mount, Mario Lemieux issued a statement to the press. And Mario was not happy.
His full 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 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."
Mario is much like my father in that growing up, my father rarely, almost never ever raised his voice in anger, but when he did? CRAP. You’d sit down. You’d shut up. You’d put on your listening ears. You became keenly aware that you had gone too far this time, and Dad was not happy about all the fighting and we aren’t even going to see the Atari for a week for this one.
Approximately 10 minutes after the Penguins’ official Twitter account linked to his statement, "Mario Lemieux" was trending worldwide on the social media service. Half of those tweets were of the "Mario is my dad" or "Mario is my homeboy" or "I would walk into the very fires of hell behind Mario Lemieux" variety. Very supportive. The other half were of the "Mario is a hypocrite" or "Mario < Gretzky" or "CROSBY SUCKS" variety, because really, "Crosby sucks" will just never get old. [eyeroll].
My issue right now is that the statement is very vague, and I have some follow-up questions for Mario to help clarify some things.
If I were in a press conference with Mario, here’s what I’d pipe up to ask:
1. Is it the just the Islanders you’re speaking of, or are you also angry at the Penguins for their behavior during this game?
2. What do you feel would have been the appropriate way for the league to handle this? What punishment do you feel should have been handed down?
3. Will you marry me?
4. Will you be my valentine?
5. If you leave and start your own hockey league, can I be vice president of Important-Sounding-Stuff-Who-Gets-Tickets-Behind-Home-Bench-for-Every-Game?
6. What do you mean I have to leave the room and never come back?
We female sports reporters are never taken seriously, I tell you. Rampant sexism.
Regardless, to sum up: The game was a travesty. The Islanders were out for revenge. Brent Johnson could slam a revolving door. Mario is king.
Long live the king.