NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — Zenon Konopka is ready to rumble — again.
This time Pittsburgh Penguins owner Mario Lemieux is drawing the ire of the Islanders’ enforcer.
Lemieux, in a statement issued Sunday after a fight-filled game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Islanders, said the NHL failed in its punishment of New York — and went so far as to question whether he wanted to stay in the league.
“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,” Lemieux said. “It was painful to watch the game I love turn into a sideshow like that.”
Konopka doesn’t agree.
“I can’t believe he is so far removed from the game that he doesn’t realize in the heat of the moment what happens,” Konopka told the Ottawa Citizen. “Obviously, we’re going to do everything we can to protect our players in here. It’s not an easy job to do it, but we’re worried about each other, not outsiders.”
The NHL suspended New York forwards Trevor Gillies for nine games and Matt Martin for four.
“You look at Trevor Gillies,” Konopka said. “He’s a first time offender. He hits a guy, throws a few punches, he gets a nine-game suspension. The guy’s got a wife, two kids and plays in the East Coast Hockey League and AHL most of his career and now he’s going to lose $35,000. And it’s not right. Obviously, the league has their job and not mine, but in here, we feel for him. It hurts not to have Trevor in lineup for nine games. It hurts me, personally, my buddy, out $35,000.”
The two major brawls Friday night were sparked by Martin and Gillies.
The first broke out in the second period when Martin jumped Max Talbot from behind near center ice and started a fight, presumably in retaliation for an unpenalized hit delivered by Talbot on Feb. 2 against Islanders forward Blake Comeau, who hasn’t played since because of a concussion.
“Montreal and Boston, they play a game and it’s great old-time hockey, it’s ‘wow, this is awesome, the rivalry’,” Konopka said. “Then we have a game and now we’re getting crucified for it.”
The NHL also hit the team with a $100,000 fine late Saturday night, saying the Islanders “must bear some responsibility for their failure to control their players.”
“I don’t understand how this $100,000 gets thrown into the mix,” Konopka seethed.
Lemieux, who had a Hockey Hall of Fame playing career with the Penguins, will no longer grace Konopka’s bedroom in poster form.
“As soon as I get home, I’m taking the poster of Mario on my bedroom door down.”
Did Lemieux come down too hard on the Isles? Sound off in the comments below!
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