Mario Lemieux is one of the best players in NHL history. He's the most important figure in the history of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and today, he put the NHL -- a league in which he is the owner of a franchise -- on notice with a harsh statement.
Via the Penguins, here's the statement in its entirety.
"Hockey is a tough, physical game, and it always should be. But what happened Friday night on Long Island wasn't hockey. It was a travesty. 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.
"We, as a league, must do a better job of protecting the integrity of the game and the safety of our players. We must make it clear that those kinds of actions will not be tolerated and will be met with meaningful disciplinary action.
"If the events relating to Friday night reflect the state of the league, I need to re-think whether I want to be a part of it."
The immediate reaction to this statement is frankly just complete shock. You never see this kind of frank honesty in public when it comes to this stuff in the NHL, and the fact that a Hockey Hall of Famer just said that is, simply put, shocking.
So, does he have a point? The overwhelming response from Lemieux's detractors on this is that a team that employs a guy like Matt Cooke shouldn't be in a position to speak about the integrity of the game. On the flip side, has Matt Cooke ever stepped over the line as far as Matt Martin and Trevor Gillies did on Friday night?
These are all arguable points, and one thing is for sure: this debate is nowhere near over.