Lemieux, Crosby influence GM meetings
BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Neither Mario Lemieux nor Sidney Crosby is at the Boca Raton Resort for the NHL general manager's meetings, but they greatly influenced Day 1.
Two significant developments from Monday directly tied to the Penguins: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman's immediate retooling of concussion diagnosis testing and his pledge to push the Board of Governors to fine teams that employ repeat disciplinary offenders.
"I'm real supportive of that," Penguins general manager Ray Shero said, referring to the fines proposal.
So is Lemieux, the franchise majority co-owner and a Hall-of-Fame former player.
ESPN.com reported yesterday afternoon that Lemieux sent a letter last week to Bettman calling for teams to pay a heavy price for dirty deeds done by their players on the ice.
In the letter, Lemieux called for fine amounts based on the number of games a player is suspended -- starting at $50,000 for one to two games and maxing at $1 million for 15 or more games. He also acknowledged the Penguins would have been fined $600,000 this season for offenses committed by wingers Matt Cooke and Eric Godard.
Lemieux couldn't be reached for comment, but several NHL sources who have read the letter confirmed its contents.
"The team has to make that decision to employ that type of player, and the player has to make the decision if he wants to play that way. And all of a sudden, their owner's going to be paying money," Shero said.
Lemieux also publicly criticized the league for what he perceived as too lenient discipline against the New York Islanders and several players during a chaotic game Feb. 13 on Long Island. That contest featured the third most penalty minutes in the NHL since 1990 and became a public relations black eye for the league.
Increased concussions from last season -- around 80 reported to date, compared to about 75 in each of the past two seasons -- hasn't helped the league's image.
Also there's Crosby, the NHL's most marketed star, who only started skating yesterday after spending the past 10 weeks dealing with symptoms from a concussion. He was injured by two hits in early January.
The first hit was a collision with then-Washington forward David Steckel on Jan. 1, and it was considered an "accidental" blindside blow. The second was from Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman, and it was adjudged an "illegal" hit because he was penalized, according to NHL vice president/public relations Gary Meagher.
Neither hit resulted in disciplinary action from the NHL, which adopted Rule 48 this season to steer blindside blows from the game.
The debate at these meetings is if all blows to the head can be legislated out of hockey.
The Penguins want them banned completely -- with Crosby, Shero and team CEO/president David Morehouse declaring that opinion publicly in recent days.
Support for their cause isn't universal, with many general managers -- from Toronto's old-school Brian Burke to Minnesota's new-age Chuck Fletcher -- citing Rule 48 as successful in limiting illegal hits.
Crosby isn't alone among players who want "clarity" on what constitutes a legal check.
"You can have a clean hit that is violent, so maybe you get those out of the league," Montreal defenseman Hal Gill said over the weekend. "You say, 'Yeah, OK, well, it was a clean hit, but it was right to the guy's head.' "
The minimum protocol for diagnosing potentially concussed players no longer works, according to Bettman.
Effectively immediately, a player that shows concussion-like signs and/or absorbs a high hit will, according to Bettman, "be taken to a quiet place to be evaluated" by a team doctor. That player must pass a baseline neurological test before gaining clearance to return for that or future games.
Crosby returned to the game in January even though he was hit during the second period.
Shero conceded the Penguins probably won't completely get their way from these meetings, which wrap Wednesday. Still, he was "enthused" by the tone of four-hour discussions on the first day.
"We're going to come up with something (for headshots)," he said. "This game's evolving, and we've got to change with it."
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penguins confident Pouliot will be healthy, ready for camp
- Penguins GM insists new coach Johnston was no afterthought
- Penguins goalie Fleury likely to enter season without new contract
- Rossi: Time with Penguins taught Bylsma importance of stability
- Penguins coach says team needs to ‘lessen the load’ on Crosby
- Penguins alumni rally to help Mitch Wilson, who is fighting ALS