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Kings GM Dean Lombardi fined $50,000 by NHL for comments about Mike Murphy

Lombardi draws swift and costly rebuke from league for suggesting that Murphy, an NHL executive who once sought a Kings front-office job, demonstrated bias against the team when he validated an opponent's disputed goal.

January 21, 2011|By Helene Elliott
  • Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi was fined $50,000 by the NHL on Friday for suggesting a league official has a bias against the Kings.
Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi was fined $50,000 by the NHL on Friday… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)

Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi was fined $50,000 by the NHL Friday for hinting that hockey operations executive Mike Murphy was motivated by an anti-Kings bias in validating a controversial goal scored against the team during its 2-0 loss to Phoenix on Thursday.

The NHL doesn't disclose all the fines it levies but this is a hefty sum based on known sanctions. Vancouver forward Alex Burrows was fined $2,500 last season after claiming referee Stephane Auger made a vindictive call against him, and fines of $10,000 have been imposed against coaches for criticizing officials or clashing with fans.

The call in question came when Coyotes forward Martin Hanzal appeared to have his stick above the height of the crossbar when he swatted the puck into the net in the second period Thursday but the referees ruled it a goal. The play was reviewed in the Toronto "war room" and the decision on the ice was upheld.

"We felt the views we had were not conclusive to overrule the refs' call on the ice," Murphy told The Times.

An irate Lombardi suggested Murphy had a grudge against the Kings. He referred to Murphy's upholding a decision to nullify an apparent Kings goal at Ottawa and Murphy's failed pursuit of a front-office job with the Kings.

"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 said.

Commissioner Gary Bettman took issue with Lombardi's disparagement of Murphy.

"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 statement.

"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. Mike Murphy is a devoted caretaker of the game. His commitment to the National Hockey League, all 30 of its clubs — and to the game — is beyond challenge, question or debate."

Murphy said he had accepted an apology from Lombardi.

"Emotions and stress run high for all GMs, coaches and players. I'm sure that was the case here," Murphy said. "I understand and appreciate his apology."

In a statement released by the Kings, Lombardi said "the punishment fits the crime. . . . Like the team must learn from its mistakes, the GM has to learn from his mistakes as well."

The claim that Murphy is biased against the Kings contradicts an interview posted on lakings.com in October 2009 in which Murphy sounded like a fan.

"I think it would be so neat to see the Kings succeed and win a Stanley Cup because it would do just a tremendous amount for the Southern California market and the Kings franchise," Murphy said. "They have been hard working and very close in a number of years, so that would be nice to see."

helene.elliott@latimes.com

twitter.com/helenenothelen

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