I have been critical in the past about staged fighting, and I really believe that what Emery did last night could be defined as a staged fight. He skated two hundred-feet down the ice to attack a player who had no interest in involving himself in fisticuffs. Not only did he attack and assault Holtby, he told him to protect himself because Emery wanted to fight. In other words, Emery only skated the ice to throw punches. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a staged fight.
"He didn't want to fight," Emery told Chuck Gormley of Comcast Sportsnet Washington. "I said, basically, 'Protect yourself.' He didn't really have much of a choice." Asked if he thinks the NHL will look into the incident, Emery said, "I'm not sure. There's a penalty for fighting in hockey and I gave him a chance to protect himself."
The issue I have is that Emery fought a guy who wanted nothing to do with fighting. He skated from his own net all the way down the ice to fight a guy who not only didn't want to fight, but attempted to skate away from Emery. Emery grabs him, basically tells him to pucker up because the beating is coming, and then assaults Holtby. How is this not worthy of a suspension?
According to the NHL, "rules 46.2 and 46.17 limit punishments for instigators. Rule 46.2 covers the punishment he received during the game and 46.17 states that a player 'deemed to be the aggressor' for the third time in a season gets a two-game suspension". The NHL is basically saying that the punishment handed out to Emery during the course of the game was satisfactory for this kind of mugging, and that the NHL Player Safety Department is handcuffed due to the rules above.
We could list a pile of what-if situations here, but the fact that Holtby wasn't hurt by Emery's mugging is probably the best news that came out of last night's brawl. Holtby had blows rained upon him and seemed to struggle keeping his footing, so there was some concern that he may end up with a concussion, a leg or knee injury, or both. And while I would never wish an injury upon a player, the fact that Holtby could have been seriously injured by Emery in this unprovoked attacked should be enough for the NHL Player Safety Department to step in and issue some sort of supplemental punishment. This sort of attack cannot be allowed under any circumstances.
I know the NHLPA would fight any sort of supplemental discipline handed out to Emery based upon the rules written into the rulebook, so this plea to correct Emery's actions is pretty much all for naught. But as much as I enjoy a good scrap, this one was totally unnecessary and, to be honest, entirely thuggish. We all know Emery can fight as he's proved it in the past. There was no need for this fight, though, as it seemed that Emery was only concerned with appearing on SportsCenter.
I hope the GMs talk about these kinds of fights at the General Managers' meeting on November 12. Seeing this kind of attack on a player who wanted none of it is disgusting.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!