I will admit though that it is not totally one-sided when it comes to all of it. The Penguins, for the first time in my feable memory, are leading the league in fights, penalty minutes, fighting majors, game misconducts, and is one of only four teams with a match penalty this year. If I didn't know any better, I would think I was talking about the Flyers or Bruins. Matt Cooke is currently serving a 4 game suspension and Eric Godard was just issued a 10 game for leaving the bench Friday against the Islanders.
I think Matt Cooke has been addressed here before and I know the discussion will continue, but I just wanted to reiterate my feelings. I'm not a huge Matt Cooke fan. I never have been. But, I do like him. He is not a horrible hockey player, despite the majority of North America's and Jeremy Roenick's feelings. In fact, there have been countless coaches and GM's that have said they would gladly take him on their teams. He's tenacious, gritty, and contributes offensively, three things coaches want. He just has a penchant for occasionally hitting a guy that doesn't know he's going to be hit. Is that so wrong? (it is wrong, I was just being facetious) Enough about that. Onward with my rant.
It didn't get any better today when the Pens took their prestigious statistical leads into MSG and took another beating at the hands of the Rangers. New York hasn't had a +3 goal game since January 19th. They absolutely destroyed Marc-Andre Fleury today. This whole New York trip has been a disaster. Yesterday, before a "practice" session in Central Park, their bus was even in an accident and the players had to take taxis. And Friday, well we all know what happened there.
In all, that game featured 346 penalty minutes, 20 misconduct penalties, 15 fighting majors, and 10 ejections. The normally mild-mannered and soft-spoken owner of the Pens actually lashed out at the league for what he felt was only minimal punishments. Mario said in a press release...
“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.”Strong language from a normally quiet owner. What's more interesting to me is all the criticism he is taking by various sources for his comments. At best he is being lauded for his outspokenness. At worst, he is being labeled a hypocrite for his poignant comments with no apparent responsibility taken for his own team. Whatever side you are on when it comes to the rash of fighting, head-shots, and "intent-to-injure" hits, there is no denying the league is finally beginning to head down the right path. If more former greats like Mario, or Gretzky, Howe, and Hull begin to speak up, I think this discipline process will move even faster to "fixing" what is perceived as broken.
“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,” he said. “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 rethink whether I want to be a part of it.”
I just hope the Pens get the message that their new found physical play has gone off the deep end and it's not too late to right this sinking ship.