COMMENTARY | The Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers faced off Friday night for the first time as Metropolitan Division opponents. The game turned into a romp, with the Capitals blowing out the Flyers 7-0, but the real story came in the third period when a massive brawl erupted between the two teams.
No doubt frustrated by the score, Philadelphia agitator Wayne Simmonds began throwing his body around, rolling over everyone in his path looking for someone to drop the gloves with him. Tom Wilson was happy to oblige. The remaining Flyers players on the ice began brawling with the other Capitals players around them until everyone on the ice was engaged.
Including the goalies.
That's right, the goalies squared off in a rare goalie fight. While die-hard hockey fans no doubt enjoyed watching the two netminders go toe to toe, this was a fight that never should have happened.
Philadelphia goalie Ray Emery skated the length of the ice to get at Braden Holtby, who clearly did not want to fight. Holtby told Emery as much, but Emery responded by saying only, "Protect yourself." He then proceeded to pound on Holtby mercilessly.
At one point, Holtby dropped to his knees, but the referees did not step in and Emery continued throwing punch after punch in a disgusting and thuggish display. Some Capitals players tried to step in, but the referees who had no problem letting Emery wail on Holtby would not let anyone else interfere. NHL rules state a player cannot interfere in a fight between two other players, but the Capitals players only tried to get involved when it appeared the referee inexplicably was not going to break it up. So a fight that never should have happened was allowed to continue far too long.
As the Holtby fight was wrapping up, Brayden Schenn of the Flyers picked a fight with the Capitals' Alex Urbom. How? Schenn literally took off Urbom's helmet and began throwing punches. Meanwhile, Schenn still had his own helmet on, complete with visor. Yes, new NHL rules dictate he cannot take his own helmet off, but that does not justify a cheap shot to get off his opponent's.
Fighting is a part of hockey's culture. There's nothing wrong with the fact that the Flyers were looking for a fight Friday night. You see it all the time when games are out of reach, team's want to send a message both to their own players and to the opposing team. Fine. The problem was how the Flyers went about it.
If you decide to play hockey, you have to be willing to drop the gloves every once in a while when the situation dictates. It happens. The same is not true of goalies who rarely ever fight. Hotlby did not want to fight. Period. There is no reason why he had to.
Even if you have no problem with Emery starting the fight, the fact that he was allowed to continue punching even when Holtby went to his knees is appalling. The fight was over then and there and Emery should have backed off. Instead he continued punching like the gutless, classless player that he is.
In a typical hockey fight, two players square off and fight until either the refs break it up or one is dropped to the ice. Then, they stop fighting, pat each other on the butts and move on. Sometimes, things can get a little heated, but there is an unwritten rule in hockey that when one player is down, the fight is over. The fact that Emery kept going after Holtby was disgusting and made worse by the fact that the referees made no attempt to end it.
If you're reading this and thinking that the only reason people in Washington are upset is because Holtby was embarrassed, then stop right there: Holtby got dropped. Feel better? Congratulations Philadelphia, Emery won the fight. That's not what this is about. What this is about is following the code between hockey players. What this is about is the fact that two Philadelphia players decided to throw class and character right out the window all in the name of sending a message in a 7-0 hockey game.
It is also about a referee not stepping in when the fight was over, allowing Holtby to take several extra punches. If the referees are not responsible for a player's safety, then who is? Not the NHL evidently who decided not to suspend or fine Emery. What if Holtby had been seriously injured in that fight? It was a shameful display and instead of telling the players that this was not ok, the NHL decided to put its head in the sand.
The actions Emery, Schenn and the referees who allowed this debacle to go on were deplorable. Fighting is a part of hockey and that's fine. That does not mean, however, that one player can pound on an unwilling opponent or take off another's helmet just to get a few extra cheap shots in just because he is frustrated with his own team's performance.
Real classy, Flyers.
JJ Regan is a freelancer for Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic and is currently earning a master's in journalism at American University. Follow him on Twitter @TheDC_Sportsguy
- Sports & Recreation
- Ice Hockey
- Washington Capitals
- Philadelphia Flyers
- Braden Holtby