Big Lead Sports Bar


Mario Lemieux's Letter to Gary Bettman

Monday was a busy day in Penguin news: not only did Sidney Crosby skate, but ESPN's Pierre LeBrun unveiled a letter written by Mario Lemieux to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on the topic of discipline. The text of Mario's letter:

"On behalf of the Pittsburgh Penguins organization, I am writing to propose a discussion by the Board of Governors and general managers about the NHL's current system of supplementary discipline -- and how it affects not only the integrity but the perception of our great game. 

The current system punishes the offending player but does very little to deter such actions in the future. We need to review, upgrade and more clearly define our policies in this regard, so that they can provide a meaningful deterrence and effectively clean up the game.

While there have been 50-plus suspensions since the start of the 2009-10 season, the suspensions themselves don't seem to be deterring these illegal acts and tactics. And we've often seen repeat offenders. We think it is time that teams also are held accountable for the actions of their players. We propose instituting a policy of automatically fining a team when one if its players is suspended -- with the amount of the fine based on the length of the suspension. This should serve as a disincentive for teams as well as players to employ these kinds of tactics.

Lemieux suggested fine amounts based on the length of suspension to the player:

• 1-2 games--$50,000 fine to team

• 3-4 games--$100,000 fine to team

• 5-8 games--$250,000 fine to team

• 9-10 games--$500,000 fine to team

• 11-15 games--$750,000 fine to team

• More than 15 games--$1 million fine to team

If a player is a repeat offender during that season, the fine to the team would double. Please note that if this proposed system were in operation today, the Pittsburgh Penguins would have been fined $600,000 this season because of recent suspensions to two players. We all have to take responsibility if we are going to improve the game."

The letter, which Lemieux has been working on for some time, should come as no surprise. He's been an outspoken critic of how the league has handled disciplinary measures this year, and I'm glad he took the extra step of pointing out how much his own team would be fined as a result of the scale he is proposing. That should stop the hypocrite talk among those who've pointed out that Lemieux employs Matt Cooke and fields one of the league's most pugilistic squads.

Gary Bettman said on Monday that this summer, he would present to the board of governors a proposal to hold teams and perhaps coaches more accountable for players' actions. Maybe if Bettman and the board implement of Lemieux's ideas, the league would take a few steps out of the garage where it has resided for quite some time in the minds of many.

Mario Lemieux wants team fines []



SantoGold said...

Mario should have had something like this prepared and ready to go at the same time he spoke up about the Islander game last month. He would have avoided the (justified) PR massacre he took for slamming the Islanders while ignoring the role his team and players have in all that is wrong with the NHL.

But, better late than never. I like the idea of fining the team for a players actions. I'd also like to see a team get penalized by having some variation of a shortened roster if a player gets suspended. If a Gillies gets a 4 game suspension, make the Islanders dress 1 less player for maybe their next 4 games. Shortening a team's bench for a couple games would certainly hit home with the coach, who would be less likely to dress a minor-league goon if he has 1 less roster spot for that night's game.

Steve said...

Regardless of when this letter was written, I challenge anyone to call Mario a hypocrite now. He's obviously quite willing to take responsibility financially and otherwise for his players actions and do whatever it takes to clean the game up.

Honestly, I doubt in his anger after the Islanders game he was ready to draft a detailed breakdown of fines and recourse necessary to help make sure things like that don't happen again. He had every right to be vocal about it (considering he's more importation to the game than 99% of all his lowly detractors) and having this letter delivered to Bettman and the Board of Governor's a month afterwards and long before the meetings this month tells me he is serious about taking action and his comments weren't merely a made in a moment of heated frustration.

I can see a few other things that could be added to the proposal. For instance; if a player gets a 10-game suspension and the team is fined $500,000, the fine can be cut in half if the team also suspends the player an equal amount of games or places him on waivers. Nice knowing you Gillies and players like him would disappear really fast.

Also, repeat offenders of teams currently in playoff position will lose the ability to play in the playoffs one round for each repeat offense that season. A player who is a first time repeat offender that season will lose the opportunity to play in the first round, a second repeat equals a second round suspension, etc.

I also like the eye for an eye idea. If a player is forced to miss games due to an illegal hit, that player responsible shouldn't be able to play until the injured player does. If the offending player is a worthless thug like Gillies and the injured player is either one of the affected teams top 3 scorers, or a top 3 minutes defenseman, the offending team must also sit a player who's stats and value most match the injured players stats. Think about how that would deter a player like Gillies if he knew not only would the team be effected financially but he would be responsible for another of his teams players not playing. That would be a fun locker room.

One last thing, if a player seriously injures another in the act of a committing a penalty (whether it’s a trip, interference or a high stick) and that player is forced to miss games as a result, the guilty player is given an automatic 4-game suspension regardless of whether there was intent to injure or not. That mean’s Chara’s interference penalty is no longer just a “hockey play” like supporters of goon hockey like to see it. Sorry, but if Chara wasn’t breaking the rules to begin with, there is no injury and I can’t believe people don’t want to see the logic in that.

Spatula said...

Sorry to read that you're going on hiatus. I've enjoyed reading your work for a few years now. It's been a great way to keep in touch with sports in Pittsburgh from somebody who lives there (my father moved our family away in 1976, but we still have fondness for the city). You've really been a great source of information and entertainment for me and many others. I hope your family member's health issues improve and that your life gets back to normal. And, after that, hopefully you be back helping those of us in the Pittsburgh diaspora keep in touch with our roots. Take care.

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