Last night I completely missed the Capitals-Flyers game as I watched the OKC Barons, but while the Barons game was brutal (a shutout 6-0!) it had nothing on the Ray Emery walloping of Braden Holtby which has justifiably reignited the fighting in hockey debate. To be honest, I have been firmly on the side of keeping fighting in hockey – it is tradition, I said. It is part of hockey I said, but last night’s debacle was appalling, intolerable, and just plain insanity.
Whatever “Code” had seemingly been a part of hockey in the past is now gone since the new “Code” is basically “once you violate the Code, the Code is out”. Somewhere along the way something undeniably sad has happened to good sportsmanship. Last night’s fight was thuggery, pure and simple, and then we watched as the referee did nothing to stop the beating when it was perfectly obvious that Emery was, according to the NHL’s own Rule Book, the “Aggressor.”
Emery told media, “He didn’t want to fight, and I said, basically, ‘Protect yourself.’ He didn’t really have much of a choice.”
Watch that video clip and tell me that beating has a place in today’s hockey. It does not under any circumstances. If this is what fighting in a professional sport has become, it is time for this hockey fan to cry foul. Remove it completely. If it loses fans, so be it. The excuses used by fighting proponents have very little justification anymore. Statistics alone prove that fighting is not a deterrent, nor is it the “cure” for what ails seemingly “weak” teams. And this is completely disregarding the fact that concussions – C.T.E. – are not only career killers for these young players, but concussions also kill players! That is certainly not the sport the NHL wishes to promote to gain new fans.
Unfortunately the NHL’s current rules do not stop this type of goonish behavior – see NHL Rule 46.2 “Aggressor”. Will a couple of games worth of suspension stop this? No. The only thing that might be a deterrent is if the “Aggressor” player is banned from hockey altogether, but sadly I do not expect that to happen at all.
Fans and players alike romanticize hockey fights, and this, along with hockey’s long standing machismo mentality, gets nestled in our brains until we accept it as a given. The time has come to call for a stop to this ridiculous dinosaur that no longer has a place in today’s hockey. By the way, the Philadelphia media selected Emery as their 3rd Star of the night – he allowed 4 goals on 15 shots, had 29 PIM and was ejected from the game. What a Star! He’s certainly not a Star in my opinion.