NEW YORK -- Sidney Crosby was the recipient of some harsh words from both an analyst and a coach last week. On Monday, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NBC Sports Group Chairman Mark Lazarus addressed the comments.
The Pittsburgh Penguins star was criticized on a radio station by NBC analyst Mike Milbury last Monday after Crosby and Philadelphia Flyers forward Brayden Schenn mixed it up during their game the previous afternoon. It started with Schenn cross checking Crosby on his way to the bench and ended with the Flyers' Danny Briere suffering an injury on a legal hit from the Penguins' Joe Vitale in the final minutes.
Milbury called Crosby a "punk" during a tirade that resulted in Milbury issuing an apology the following day.
"On a personal level, I like Mike and I respect him and all he's accomplished in the game," Bettman said of Milbury, who was not part of a conference call involving NBC's on-air talent Monday. "But suffice it to say, I don't agree with everything that he says. It's an interesting and difficult issue because he didn't say it on NBC's air. He doesn't work for us, and when he said it, he wasn't doing it on (NBC's) behalf. Needless to say, I did not agree with his comments and I did not think they were appropriate. Frankly, I'm glad he had the good sense to apologize, because an apology was in order."
Lazarus echoed Bettman's words.
"We feel the same," Lazarus said. "It did not happen on our air. We did not condone or agree with what Mike said, but we were glad he chose to apologize. I think when he thought through what he said and in the context of it, he needed to make a statement and we were glad that he chose to do that."
On Thursday, Crosby was once again bearing the brunt of an attack, this one from New York Rangers coach John Tortorella following a game that saw Rangers forward Derek Stepan absorb a knee-to-knee hit from Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik.
"I wonder what would happen if we did it to their two whining stars? Wonder what would happen?" Tortorella said, referring to Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. "So I'm anxious to see what happens with the League. There's no respect amongst players. None."
Bettman said Tortorella's comments come with the territory of Crosby being one of the game's biggest stars.
"The level of passion, emotion and gamesmanship can never be overestimated," Bettman said. "I think people who follow the game closely understand it's just noise. My guess is, Sidney Crosby is still the most popular player and has legions of fans in all ages in multiple countries. The fact that somebody might take a potshot, I guess, is the price of greatness."
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