Mario Lemieux wants team fines

Updated: March 15, 2011, 12:04 AM ET
By Pierre LeBrun | ESPN.com

The NHL's announcement Monday that it will ponder fines to teams with repeat offenders should find a supporter in Mario Lemieux.

The former superstar player and current co-owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins sent a letter to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman last week calling for that kind of action.

The letter, obtained by ESPN.com Monday, was dated March 7.

"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," Lemieux wrote.

Lemieux 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.

-- Penguins co-owner Mario Lemieux

"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."

The letter goes on to underline the need for less subjectivity and suggests a manner in which to make supplementary discipline more impactful.

"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," wrote Lemieux. "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."

Bettman on Monday at the NHL GM meetings announced a five-point plan for reducing concussions, one of the points a promise to talk to NHL owners about the possibility of fining teams for repeat offenders.

"I will be discussing with the Board of Governors at the June meetings the fact that I intend to, for next season, provide that clubs will ultimately be responsible for the acts of their players so that if a player or players on a club are the subjects of repeat disciplinary procedures and resultant supplemental discipline, ultimately it is the club and perhaps the coach that will be held responsible," Bettman told media in Boca Raton, Florida.

A league source told ESPN.com Monday that the idea had already been in the works for a long time before Lemieux suggested it in his letter last week, although one has to assume given Lemieux's stature in the game that his thoughts on the matter carried some weight.

Bettman stopped short of saying just how much exactly the fines would be. Lemieux, in his letter last week, 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," wrote Lemieux. "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.'"

Lemieux's letter to the commissioner came on the heels of his well-publicized statement released to the media last month lashing out at the NHL for what the Penguins owner felt were too-lenient suspensions against Trevor Gillies (nine games) and Matt Martin (four games) for their actions in a Feb. 11 game against the Penguins.

Pierre LeBrun covers the NHL for ESPN.com.