What a great day it was for the anti-fighting brigade.
On Friday, Flyers goalie Ray Emery chummed the waters with his vicious assault on Capitals goalie Braden Holtby. The one-sided bout sent the small but vocal group (mostly media-based) that is opposed to brawling into a frenzy of grandstanding and virtual ink spilling, not just about the beating, but also about the NHL’s inability, or unwillingness, to sanction Emery for his dirty deed.
The indignation pretty much leapt off of pages. On Twitter, Kevin Dupont, of The Boston Globe wrote, “NHL Player Safety has made huge strides last 2 yrs. It cannot allow Emery to skate on his Holtby beatdown. Travesty.”
“I love hockey, but the disgrace in Philly last night is a perfect example of why, to millions of people, the NHL is not a serious pro sport,” offered Steve Maich, the publisher and editor of Sportsnet.
They’re right to be appalled by this incident, of course. As far as optics go, watching one man pummel an entirely unwilling opponent is about as bad as it gets. Even a fighting advocate like myself is not conflicted on this point.
Emery vs. Holtby wasn’t what Brian Burke would have called a good fight. It wasn’t about accountability or The Code. It was about one frustrated man who had allowed four goals on 15 shots taking out his embarrassment on another player who wanted no part of it.
So yeah, it was a “bad” fight. And it might even precipitate a rule change, much the way Matt Cooke’s head shot on a defenseless Marc Savard led to new guidelines dictating where a player can and cannot be hit.