Zenon Konopka used to be a Mario Lemieux fan.
But after the Penguins owner criticized the New York Islanders for their role in a fight-filled game on Friday night, the New York Islanders enforcer says he’s no longer looking up to the hockey legend.
“As soon as I get home, I’m going to take the poster off my bedroom door of Mario,” Konopka said on Monday afternoon in Ottawa. “I can’t believe he (Lemieux) is that far removed from the game that he doesn’t realize…in the heat of the moment what happens.”
On Sunday night, after suspensions were handed out for the game that featured 346 penalty minutes, Lemieux issued a written statement that suggested the NHL did not send a strong enough message.
“What happened on Friday night on Long Island wasn’t hockey. It was a travesty,” Lemieux wrote. “It was painful to watch the game I love turn into a sideshow like that. The NHL had a chance to send a clear and strong message that those kinds of actions are unacceptable and embarrassing to the sport. It failed.”
Konopka countered with the argument that his team is being singled out because the Islanders franchise is a notoriously easy target.
“Everyone keeps taking shots at us. Check with our trainers and see how many games we’ve lost. We’ve lost 360 man games to injury,” vented Konopka. “And now we’re getting crucified because we’re trying to get some retribution for a couple of our guys getting knocked out. It’s tough.”
Konopka, as is often the case, was the most outspoken member of the Islanders. Head coach Jack Capuano refused to take the bait on Lemieux’s comments, deferring to Garth Snow on the issue.
“You read the quotes and you let our general manager handle it from there,” said Capuano. “What was said was said. As far as myself, I’m not going to comment on that.”
Islanders star forward John Tavares was equally reserved with the media, making sure not to ruffle any feathers in light of Lemieux’s reaction.
“Those comments, I don’t think any of us have much to say about it in here. It’s behind us now and we’re just moving on from it,” said Tavares.