Everyone seems upset about NHL ruling
BUFFALO - Two days, three suspensions and $100,000 later, and the drama still ain't done.
The NHL came down hard on the Islanders for the ugly beatdown against the Penguins on Friday night at Nassau Coliseum, but neither side seems satisfied.
After the mayhem during the Islanders' 9-3 rout of the Penguins, Trevor Gillies was suspended for nine games, Matt Martin was suspended for four and the Islanders were slapped with a $100,000 fine. For the Penguins, Eric Godard was given an automatic 10-game suspension for leaving the bench.
Islanders general manager Garth Snow and several players were surprised at the harsh sentences - particularly to Gillies - and Penguins co-owner Mario Lemieux blasted the league for being too lenient.
"I don't understand why we got a $100,000 fine,'' said Zenon Konopka, who had an in-person hearing along with Martin and Gillies on Saturday but was cleared of any wrongdoing. "It's hockey. Emotions get high. Boston-Montreal have a fight-fest game and it's the greatest thing since sliced bread. We go intense and obviously, it's not. It's tough."
Konopka and Snow defended Gillies, whose elbow on Eric Tangradi left Tangradi with concussion-like symptoms.
"I thought it was extremely hard on [Gillies]," Konopka said. "Guy plays hard. He's got a wife and two kids. And compared to other instances, whether it's Matt Cooke or whoever you want to compare them to, for a first-time offender, I thought it was pretty harsh."
Although Snow tried his best to be diplomatic toward league disciplinarian Colin Campbell, he also stuck up for Gillies.
"The hit that Trevor administered - I think he had the right intentions,'' Snow said. "In fact, he ended up maybe being reverse-hit a little bit and falling to the ice. At that point, I think he was probably getting off the ice in engagement mode. Things happen pretty fast, and that's the way I saw that play unfold."
Snow also pointed to some incidents that he thought went unnoticed by the NHL, and parted with what seemed to be a veiled shot at the league for not fining Penguins coach Dan Bylsma for Godard's decision to jump the bench.
"Matt Moulson almost got his head taken off after he scored a goal to make it [7-2],'' he said. "I know John Tavares got cross-checked twice in the corner. There are plays that happened on both sides. But it's not for me to judge. I'm very proud that our team showed restraint - that no one left the bench to create a bench-clearing-brawl scenario."
Lemieux didn't agree. In a statement released by the Penguins, he described Friday's events as a "travesty" and said it was "painful to watch the game I love turn into a sideshow like that.''
He added, "If the events relating to Friday night reflect the state of the league, I need to rethink whether I want to be a part of it."
In response to a request from Newsday, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said: "We are entirely comfortable with how Friday night's events were handled. We have no other response to Mr. Lemieux's statement."
Snow declined to comment on Lemieux's statement.
Gillies and Martin told Newsday they are disappointed with the punishments they received.
"Big-time disappointed," Gillies said.
"It was a decision that the league made based on how it looked. In watching it myself, it looked a lot worse than it was," Martin said of jumping Max Talbot from behind. "I never really intended to sucker-punch [Talbot]. I didn't sucker-punch him. I grabbed him to throw a punch, but as soon as I saw he wanted no part of it, I stopped myself.
"I understand where the league is coming from. If I were in the situation where I did throw a punch, that could've been very dangerous. I respect the decision they made and it won't happen again."