It's very understandable why a brawl would break out when one opponent is winning 7-0. That is exactly what happened in the Capitals-Flyers matchup on November 1st, 2013. Washington absolutely demolished the Flyers in the Wells Fargo Center. Joel Ward scored a hat trick and after his third goal things erupted. Wayne Simmonds and Tom Wilson got into a fight which led to ten guys on the ice all going at one another. Soon the total would be twelve men fighting as Philadelphia backup netminder Ray Emery would skate the length of the ice and antagonize Braden Holtby who backed away and did not give the impression that he was eager to fight. Holtby did not drop his stick or his glove. Instead, he let the referee get between the two but Ray Emery was not going to allow this to stop. Emery has a tattoo which states "Anger is a gift". Emery assaulted Holtby and while the Capitals starting goaltender was a good sport about it, these kind of shenanigans have no place in the NHL. Fighting in hockey is a great thing in fact it is one of the best parts of this sport. It has historical relevance and a big reason fighting is allowed is due to the respect that players have for one another. When one combatant has had enough, the fight stops and things do not get too far out of hand. There is genuine respect between fighters in the National Hockey League. There was no respect in Emery's actions against Holtby. Emery pounded Holtby a number of times in the back of the head when he was unable to defend himself. An action any fighter of the NHL would frown upon. While Holtby did try to throw a few punches, for the most part he was using his glove to defend himself. Following the contest Emery stated, "He didn’t want to fight but I said basically protect yourself. He didn’t really have much of a choice."
Fighting in hockey is an extension of the game. It is a natural conflict that occurs throughout the games progression. There was nothing natural about this fight though. The goalies did not meet in the middle of the ice as usual instead Emery skated down the entire rink in order to put Holtby in a corner and beat an unwilling combatant senseless.
Branden Holtby is a young guy and he is a good guy in the NHL. Holtby was a good sport after the fight and gave a big smile when trainer Greg Smith came out to check on him. The Flyers local media must not have been watching the same brawl I was watching though as they named Ray Emery as the third star of the game despite having a .733 save percentage and allowing four goals. Emery has always been a known trash talker but rarely have we seen him take out his frustration with violence. Emery is 0-2 this season with a 5.08 GAA and .846 save percentage.
NHL's player safety needs to take action. There was intent to injure here and Holtby clearly did not want to participate in the scrap. The problem not only rests on Emery's shoulders though. Referee Francois St. Laurent was an abolute joke in that fight. St. Laurent tried to get in the middle of the fight at the beginning but then let the assault carry on. St. Laurent waved Holtby's teammates away as they tried to stop the melee. St. Laurent should have not let this fight happen in the first place. This is not a conflict that belongs in the National Hockey League. Emery deserves to be suspended for a few games and possibly fined for his actions. There is one thing that is for certain though, Philadelphia has hit rock bottom and this is yet another reason NHL fans called them a team of goons.