The Pittsburgh Penguins Display The Problems With NHL Officiating

The NHL fined the Isles last year $100,000 for the brawl game vs. the Pens, but the Pens were not fined anything despite a player leaving the bench as a sixth skater to join a fight on the ice - which, by the way, means the head coach should be suspended for one game - he wasn't. But owner Mario Lemieux stated that the NHL didn't do enough to punish the Isles for that disgrace of a game. (BBreen37/Flickr)

Keep in mind that Matt Martin and Trevor Gillies received suspensions. They rightfully deserved them, and Godard got the 10 games required for leaving the bench, but the Penguins didn't receive any other suspensions or fines of any kind.

Lemieux, despite the one-sided disciplinary action, still felt that the league didn't do enough.

“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," stated Lemieux.

“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.

Lemieux, who basically said that the league he works for did not do their job, did not receive a fine from the NHL. But New York Rangers head coach John Tortorella was fined $20,000 when he said that the Penguins have two of the biggest cry babies (Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were the implied players) that get special treatment from the league.

If you're scratching your head asking yourself how this makes sense, you're not alone. But it only gets more confusing.

Mr. Lemieux signs off on a paycheck to Matt Cooke, who up until this season was known as one of, if not the dirtiest player in the NHL. To give Lemieux credit, Cooke cleaned up his act a lot this year. Believe it or not he scored 19 goals this season and only had 44 PIMs after amassing 129 last year. But those words from Lemieux that were said last year came when Cooke was still checking players from behind and getting suspended to what almost felt like a regular basis.

Today we saw arguably the best hockey player in the world do something that Lemieux was so passionately fighting against just a little over a year ago, and that's turning the game into a travesty. Sidney Crosby was the recipient of some post-whistle shoving in the Flyers end of the ice. Any hockey fan knows that these scrums happen often, especially in the playoffs. But Crosby continued to up the ante by smacking Jacob Voracek's glove out of his reach when he bent over to pick it up. When Kimmo Timonen returned the favor by smacking Crosby's stick out of his hands, a fight ensued. Claude Giroux, who had been verbally battling with Crosby prior to his childish antics, ended up grappling with Crosby before the linesman joined in and Giroux fell to the ice. It was only here that Crosby, who only dropped one glove - not two - began throwing his fist into the face of Giroux.

These are the actions of the NHL's superstar, the league's golden boy, who was potentially risking another concussion all over again had Giroux landed a hard right to his temple. And for what reason? Because you were losing? Because you've been embarrassed by your cross-town rivals?

I will never wish injury on a player, but what Crosby did today was foolish for his health and just downright ridiculous. Crosby is one player in the league, due to his health, who literally cannot back himself up if he starts trouble like he did today. If that's the case, just shut your mouth and play hockey.

The next shift resulted in Brayden Schenn dropping Paul Martin with a huge hit that was ruled as a charge. Arron Asham then dropped Schenn from behind and punched him in the back of the head while he was face first on the ice.

I think Newsday's Arthur Staple said it best with his tweet today:

"Can't imagine Mario Lemieux would want to continue to be a part of a league that allows this... Oh, wait. Never mind."

It brings up the fact that the NHL has done a horrendous job of officiating this year. Not only have questionable on ice calls determined the outcomes of games, but the high ranking officials continue to be inconsistent with suspensions.

The 2012 pre-season and regular season both started with Brendan Shanahan, the newly appointed NHL Disciplinarian, handing out strict suspensions left and right on a game-by-game basis. As the season continued on, the suspensions were diluted to few and far between. So much to the fact that a Shea Weber head slam that came straight out of the WWE play book is only worth a $2,500 fine. So much that Matt Carkner only gets suspended one game for jumping a defenseless skater in Brian Boyle, despite his prior record of suspensions.

The NHL needs to start treating all players equally. Just because you have been hailed as the next Wayne Gretzky your whole life doesn't mean you get to play like a punk and get away with it. Just because you lived with Mario Lemieux for the first few years of your NHL career doesn't mean you get special treatment.

Lemieux is so quick to point fingers at the rest of the league, when some of these players that he criticizes do exactly what his teammates used to do for him.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are a prime example of how the league's definition of a penalty has become incredibly skewed and illegible.

You know, I may not have seen too many of Wayne Gretzky's games as a hockey player, but I can't remember seeing or hearing to many stories of Gretzky playing like Crosby.

If he thinks he's the Gretzky of our era, maybe he should start acting like it.

-Rob McGowan
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Kyle Andrew Busch's picture

Great read Rob. This is exactly what I was thinking. So Crosby is the reason they want headshots out of the league, and then he pulls amateur crap like he did today? Ridiculous

Rob McGowan's picture

I love fighting in hockey and I love the scrums and the banter. It's part of the game and always entertaining to watch, but a guy like Crosby has no place starting trouble where he could injure himself or possibly others with childish crap like today. And what makes it worse is that the league will not do anything to Crosby or the Pens because of Lemieux's take on the whole thing.

It's a real shame that the league doesn't put the action before the player.

Adam Miller's picture

It's not about whether he's going to injure himself, if he is stupid enough to put himself in that position again, it's his own fault and I'll feel no sympathy. If he wants to fight and be passionate that's his choice, ditto if he wants to paint a target on his back (or make the already existing one bigger, with flashing lights, which he did over the course of Game 3).

The problem is the behavior in general, from anybody, and I agree totally on this point. What about Neal taking runs at Giroux and Couturier? The entire Pittsburgh team put their true colors on display, with Adams (I think?) pulling Hartnell's hair.

If you watch the whole thing on replay, Crosby ties Hartnell up, and Adams comes in as a third man and starts laying into the back of Hartnell's head with multiple swings before Hartnell even gets his balance and has his say, at which point Adams turns Hartnell around AGAIN and starts with the hair-pulling. It's barroom brawl-type tactics like these that showcase the blatant disrespect the Pittsburgh players have for other members of this league. Passion and rivalry is no excuse for the level of scumbaggery that Pittsburgh put on display and I hope that when (if?) the hammer comes down it comes down hard on these players to teach them a lesson.

The fight that I'm talking about starts at about 7:00 of this video

You get a really good close-camera look at it. I really hope this doesn't go ignored by the league.