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Steve Yzerman, Zenon Konopka offer different takes on Mario Lemieux’s comments

Feb 14, 2011, 5:49 PM EDT

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Just about anyone with an interest in hockey and a half-functional computer probably offered the world their take (make sure to read Joe’s well-reasoned piece) on Mario Lemieux’s fuming release regarding the ugly New York Islanders-Pittsburgh Penguins donnybrook. Let’s take a look at two people who are a little closer to the action, though.

On one side, there’s one of the Islanders who was on the ice during the mayhem: 2009-10 penalty minute leader Zenon Konopka. To the surprise of few, Konopka was not on Lemieux’s side when he shared his perspective on the situation. In fact, Konopka went as far as to say that he would tear the Mario Lemieux poster off his bedroom door the next time he gets home. Zonopoka also said that the all-time great might be so far removed from the game that he forgot what happens “in the heat of the moment.”

(Quick aside: color me surprised that Konopka’s bedroom door isn’t adorned with Bob Probert posters instead.)

Switching gears, Steve Yzerman’s pro-Lemieux reactions shouldn’t surprise anyone, either. After all, the Detroit Red Wings great and current Tampa Bay Lightning GM has been adamant about playing a style in which fights are infrequent. That being said, his statements focused on getting Lemieux more directly involved in improving the game, rather than the issue of fighting itself.

“I think Mario is one of the most well-respected, intelligent people in the game,” the Tampa Bay Lightning GM said Monday on a conference call. “I would encourage him (and) I think we should all encourage him to get more involved with the league because he has a lot to offer.”

(snip)

“Specifically, I don’t know (what more he could do),” said Yzerman. “Again, Mario is really a bright guy and he’s really a good guy and he’s been around the league and carries a lot of weight.

“I think everyone would encourage to be more involved in everything we do as a league.”

Yzerman makes an interesting point, as it is obvious that Lemieux can bring attention to some of the league’s biggest issues. While discussing Matt Cooke‘s presence on the Penguins roster is understandable, it clouds the issue at heart. As exciting as a truly passionate fight can be, the NHL needs to avoid its games becoming a steady stream of these line brawls. Getting Lemieux and others to discuss the league’s issues are the best way to make progress toward finding the right compromise between welcomed aggression and sloppy chaos.

  1. sfischer1967 - Feb 14, 2011 at 6:51 PM

    are we talking fighting or egregious attempts to injure an opponent? Mario is soooo sanctimonious now, but where has he stood regarding the the misdeeds of Matt Cooke, while Cooke has been on his payroll? Conspicuously silent. And now, that his guys were on the receiving end of the beatdown, he all the sudden has an opinion about dirty play and fighting in the game, and loudly gives voice said opinion? Spare me, dude. What Cooke does with alarming regularity – attempt to injure opponents, is far more damaging to the integrity of the game than anything that went on last week. So let’s not get all high-and-mighty now.

    • ihateannouncers - Feb 15, 2011 at 6:27 PM

      Did you even watch that game??

  2. stakex - Feb 14, 2011 at 7:13 PM

    This all comes back to the fact that no one was suspended when Crosby was hurt (and rightfully so). Lemieux is use to the league bending over backwards to kiss Corsbys ass… and was quite mad when no one was suspended when he was hurt. Now, hes just taking a cheap shot on the league because of that.

    Sure the game got out of hand, and that happens every once in a while. This is not something thats going to happen every single game and there is no reason to believe that. To act like the league didn’t do anything about it is a joke considering there were 23 games worth of suspensions handed out and the Islanders were fined $100k (oddly enough Pit didn’t recieve a fine when one of its players left the bench.. an absolute no no). What more did he want from the NHL? A hand writen appology? I mean come on, the league took the right action and suspensions were handed out from the over the top actions that happened in the game. End of stroy, move on.

    Throw in the fact that Pittsburgh has been one of, if not the dirtiest teams in the leage the last few years. Cooke nearly ended Savards career (he’ll never be the same… IF he plays again) with one of the dirtiest hits I’ve seen in years. Where was Lemieux to complain about the lack of a suspension from that hit? How about all the slewfoots from Malkin and Crosby the last few years? Nadda. Lemieux should shut his damn mouth and stay in the shadows… you know, where he lurks when his own players are the ones out of control.

    • Jeff Thomas - Feb 14, 2011 at 10:12 PM

      It’s because of garbage like Friday night that people like Matt Cooke and Eric Godard even have a job. What, do you Lemieux should just take the moral high ground and let everyone else declare open season on Crosby and Malkin? He needs to protect his players. That means if you blindside Crosby in the Winter Classic and Matt Cooke will hit
      Ovechkin knee-on-knee. Dirty? Yes. Justified? Yes. The league needs to change before the play on the ice does.

    • ihateannouncers - Feb 15, 2011 at 12:36 PM

      The Cooke argument is a valid one and Lemieux should have added that he is going to start evaluating his own team to try and clean up any cheap play that he sees. But Cooke has nothing to do with the garbage displayed by the Isles that night. The reason that the league didn’t fine the Penguins Organization is because they watched the entire game and saw the obvious attempts by the Isles to retaliate against Talbot and Johnson. They saw Goddard ,who WAS fined, try to protect his goalie from the goon Haley (brought up just for this game), while the referees were nowhere to be seen.

      Where exactly are all these supposed Crosby slewfoots you keep referencing?? I saw one that was overblown by Dubinsky and the NY media, but if you have more info please share. If you think Crosby doesn’t have worse done to him on a nightly basis, you don’t watch enough hockey.

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