THE CANADIAN PRESS
(with sportsnet.ca files)
NEW YORK — Los Angeles Kings general manager Dean Lombardi was fined $50,000 by the NHL on Friday for his comments about league vice-president Mike Murphy.
Upset that a disputed goal was allowed to stand in a 2-0 loss to Phoenix on Thursday, Lombardi told a reporter who works for the team’s website that Murphy wouldn’t give the Kings a favourable call because he once lost out on the GM job in Los Angeles.
That earned Lombardi both a hefty fine, plus a sharp rebuke from commissioner Gary Bettman.
"There is no acceptable explanation or excuse for commentary challenging the integrity of the league’s hockey operations department in general or Mike Murphy, in particular," Bettman said in a release.
"People can disagree with a call by an official on the ice or an official in the situation room in Toronto, but even in instances of the utmost frustration there is no justification for speaking as inappropriately and irresponsibly as Mr. Lombardi did."
The Kings GM accepted full responsibility for his actions, phoning Murphy on Friday to offer a personal apology.
"I spoke to the commissioner today and he made it very clear to me that my actions last night were inappropriate and detrimental to the game," Lombardi said in a statement. "There is no question that his assessment is correct and the punishment fits the crime. Just as important, I apologized to Mike Murphy this morning and I sincerely appreciate his willingness to accept my apology.
"Like the team must learn from its mistakes, the GM has to learn from his mistakes as well."
Murphy played for the Kings during his NHL career and is a former coach of the team. He is currently in charge of goal reviews for the league.
"Mike Murphy is a devoted caretaker of the game," said Bettman. "His commitment to the National Hockey League, all 30 of its clubs — and to the game — is beyond challenge, question or debate.
"I have spoken to Dean, who has apologized to Mike Murphy and to me and has acknowledged that his comments were wrong, inappropriate and without merit."
Replays of the disputed goal appear to show the puck being high-sticked into the net by Martin Hanzal, but officials in the league’s video room in Toronto decided not to overturn referee Justin St. Pierre’s call after reviewing tape.
Lombardi said Murphy accepted his personal apology with class.
“He was very professional and a bigger man than me.”
Asked if he was trying to deflect attention away from his team which has been slumping after a terrific start, Lombardi admitted, “Yeah, there was some of that.”
Still, Lombardi was upset at the call and how the on-ice officials handled it.
“They are supposed to get together and discuss it so that one has the opportunity to overrule the original call,” Lombardi said. “I mean it was so obvious it was knocked in with a high stick. Our defenceman Matt Greene is 6-foot-3 and the guy’s stick was right in his face.”
Kings head coach Terry Murray also expressed his frustration following the loss.
“I don’t know why we have video replay in the National Hockey League,” Murray said. “That’s all I can say. If the replay is there for review of goals and non-goals… I don’t know. You’ve got a guy who gets credit for the goal. He’s 6-foot-6, and the stick is up above his head. Matt Greene is 6-3, and he’s batting the puck down his his hand beside his ear, and the net is four feet high. It doesn’t add up.
“It makes no sense. No sense. How does it get called on the ice a goal, first of all, and then how does the replay hold it up? I don’t know. I don’t have an answer.”
Murray was asked if he got an explanation from the on-ice officials.
“They don’t come near you,” Murray said.
The Kings were also upset earlier in the season when Ryan Smyth appeared to score a game-tying in goal in Ottawa on Nov. 22, only to have it not count. In that case, the league’s video room decided not to overturn the call on the ice.
"When the guy in Toronto making the decisions on the goals, in Ottawa and the one tonight, wanted the GM’s job in L.A. and was not happy about not getting it, you have to assume you are going to get those type of calls," Lombardi told the Kings website after Thursday’s game. "However, we have put ourselves in a position where these calls have a monumental effect on our season, and we’re going to have to find a way out of it ourselves."
It’s the second time a high-ranking member of the league’s hockey operations staff has had his integrity questioned this season. Colin Campbell, who heads the department, was involved in a scandal back in November after some of his emails were published on a blog.
In the three-year-old messages, which were made public through a wrongful dismissal case involving a former NHL referee, Campbell asked the league’s former director of officiating about penalties called against his son Gregory.
Interestingly, some fans of the Vancouver Canucks accused Murphy of being biased in the Kings favour during last year’s playoffs after he disallowed an apparent goal by Daniel Sedin in Game 3 of that series. Fans dug up an old interview with the Kings website where Murphy said "it would be so neat to see the Kings succeed and win a Stanley Cup."
Entering play Friday, Los Angeles sat 12th in the Western Conference.