It seems every year that the NHL and its Department of Player Safety come under fire for their response(or lack thereof) to major incidents in the league. Between the preseason and this early regular season there have been 17 suspensions handed out to players including a few repeat offenders.
However, we have also seen a lack of consistency in rulings since the preseason when the Phoenix Coyotes Paul Bissonnette left the bench to join an altercation and was suspended ten games. However for whatever reason the NHL decided to reduce his suspension to three games which is in direct conflict with the rule in effect to prevent said actions. David Clarkson would jump off the bench to come to the aid of Phil Kessel and would sit out the full ten games, so why exactly does this rule exist if the NHL only wants to enforce it some of the time? Both Clarkson and Bissonnette were leaving the bench to stick up for a teammate and both should have gotten the same penalty and suspension, what kind of message is the league sending when it decides to break their own rules seemingly at random?
Things blow up quickly as Wayne Simmonds makes two huge hits in a row that causes rookie Tom Wilson to step in and trade punches with Simmonds. So it's a typical Flyers loss so far right...however everything goes insane when Ray Emery comes flying down the ice to pick a fight with Braden Holtby.
As you can see and hear in the video Holtby is not a willing participant against the pugilistic sociopath known as Ray Emery and despite the ref attempting to separate them Emery begins to pound away on Holtby.
Now the NHL has a rule in place for this sort of thing: Rule 46 section 2 is the Aggressor rule in the NHL rule book and states
"The aggressor in an altercation shall be the player who continues to throw punches in an attempt to inflict punishment on his opponent who is in a defenseless position or who is an unwilling combatant"
Now if we look back at the video Holtby flat out REFUSES to fight Emery who begins swinging when the ref attempts to separate the two and Holtby pays a severe price as Emery proceeds to beat the holy hell out of him until the situation is finally brought to a close. Now this appears to be a clear violation of rule 46.2 as Holtby was both in a defenseless position and an unwilling combatant against Emery yet according to NHL rules a player has to have 3 aggressor penalties in one game in order to face any sort of suspension. Now I understand fights happen in the NHL and I can live with it as I do enjoy a good display of on ice fisticuffs every now and then. However, when you have a man with serious anger issues and a history of fights charging down the ice and pummeling an kid who wants nothing to do with him a message has to be sent to other players that these actions are not tolerated by this league.
Now as if flying down the ice in a blowout loss isn't bad enough, Emery's actions and post game words with the press makes the situation even worse
As the gif replays I counted at least ten punches delivered by Emery to the back of Holtby's head...not one or two TEN. As an avid fan of MMA I have to draw a comparison here...Emery's actions against Holtby would have gotten him disqualified in an MMA fight and most likely suspended by the sanctioning athletic body. That's right, Emery's actions were breaking the rules of two sports in one incident of stupidity. Punches to the back of the head is a major health risk due to the high risk of severe permanent injury occurring.
Add in Emery's post game comments to the press where he said "He didn't want to fight so I basically said protect yourself", Hold on a minute now...Holtby said no to fighting Emery and Emery went ahead and attacked him anyways? A quick look at the legal definition of assault provides this:
"An assault is any unlawful attempt or offer with force or violence to do bodily harm to another, whether from malice or wantonness: for example, by striking at him or even holding up a fist"
So by legal definition last night Ray Emery essentially assaulted an unwilling Braden Holtby while a ref looked on at them and the NHL sees absolutely no issue with this as judged by the lack of punishment handed out. The fact Emery was allowed to pummel Holtby in such a violent manner without an official intervening is disturbing. The refs have jumped in to stop Travis Moen from fighting without a helmet immediately yet let this drag on and even stopped a player from coming to Holtby's aid during the altercation.
I understand the aggressor penalty and rule as it is written right now but is it time to look at this rule and tweak so that incidents such as this one can be properly punished? I think so but I feel as i'm not the only one who feels that a league concerned about player safety isn't doing enough to keep players safe.
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