Ray Emery: the Line Brawl, Sherriff Shanny’s Inaction, and Possible Assault Charges

By
Updated: November 3, 2013
Ray Emery

During the third period of a 7-0 shellacking courtesy of the Washington Capitals, the Philadelphia Flyers decided to abandon all aspects of logic, sportsmanship, and respect for the game of hockey.

With 14:29 remaining in the game, a high hit from Wayne Simmonds sparked a round of fisticuffs between Simmonds and Capitals’ 19-year old fourth-liner Tom Wilson. Frustration had without a doubt inevitably set in at that point in time for the Flyers players, which was understandable to say the least. The 1-on-1 bout was a justified attempt by Simmonds to wake he and the rest of his teammates up.

However, a harmless, contained fight between two guys who are well known for their willingness to drop the gloves was interrupted almost simultaneously by Flyers’ goaltender and recent Stanley Cup Champion Ray Emery, as he immediately bolted from the confines of his crease towards the opposite end of the ice. The 31-year old Hamilton, Ontario native’s target: 24-year old Caps net minder Braden Holtby.

As Emery approached his opposing goalie, Holtby made it as clear as day that he had absolutely no intentions to fight his challenger. Backing away from the charging Emery, he was not willing to engage whatsoever. Despite this fact, he was ultimately forced into the confrontation when Emery, without hesitating, reached for Holtby’s sweater and proceeded to throw haymakers. To say what transpired next was merely a gruesome scene would be a vast understatement.

With full equipment still on and countless failed attempts to desperately clutch onto the sideboards, a defenseless Holtby had no choice but to turtle and protect himself as best he could. With referee Francois St. Laurent looking on, Emery viciously brought Holtby to his knees and with the utmost of malice pummeled and pounded fist after fist into the back of the Caps’ goaltender’s head with an apparent lack of remorse. I refuse to refer to it as a fight. Instead, I choose to call it what it really, truly was – a back-alley mugging by none other than a typical, greasy Broad Street Bully.

Eventually, Emery’s actions led to an all-out line brawl in which two additional fights broke out – Steve Oleksy beat down Vincent Lecavalier while Alexander Urbom tussled with Brayden Schenn.

Not only was the situation disgusting on a personal level, it was disgraceful and embarrassing to the Flyers’ organization and to the league as a whole as well.

There’s a reason fights between goalies are an extremely rare sight in the National Hockey League. Simply put, they’re just pointless. They’re even more pointless when the altercation is forced and not mutual. Fighting in the NHL has developed a common code amongst players who choose to participate. That historic code was blatantly ignored by Emery, and as a passionate Capitals fan, it made me sick to my stomach to watch my starting net minder receive the beating of his lifetime during an exceptional shutout performance.

Every ounce of the well-earned and deserved respect that I ever had for Emery went straight out the window following his despicable act of careless violence, and just when I thought he couldn’t get any worse as a human being, he metaphorically spat in my face and proved me wrong during his postgame interview.

When asked if he and Holtby had conversed at all prior to the mugging, he responded by saying:

“He didn’t want to fight. I said, basically, ‘Protect yourself.’ He didn’t really have much of a choice.”

Correct me if I’m wrong hockey universe, but that sounds all too familiar in regards to another term, a legal one – assault.

By definition, the law states assault as an intentional act by one person that creates an apprehension in another of an imminent harmful or offensive contact.

I can confidently say I’m not mistaken in my association with Emery’s motives. He had a sole purpose to hurt Holtby as badly as he possibly could, an intent to injure.

Oh, but that’s right. It was in a secure, “controlled” environment. That makes it justifiable. It’s totally and perfectly acceptable, you know, because it’s happening during a professional sporting event.

Is my sarcasm catching on yet?

It’s a joke. That’s what it is. Nothing less than a loophole for a non-punishable opportunity to do harm.

You’d assume that this display of disregard for any type of moral or ethical conduct in the NHL would be taken quite seriously. Yeah, I thought that as well.

What happened though? What action was taken by Brendan Shanahan and the Department of Player Safety that “claim” they are so passionate about protecting players and keeping the integrity of the game present at all times?

Nothing. Not a single slap on the wrist. Not a fine, not a suspension, not even a hearing. Nothing but an excuse brought to us all by an NHL spokesman stating that the current rulebook as it stands doesn’t back any sort of supplemental discipline for what occurred.

Many hockey fans who are enraged about the absence of any repercussions are pointing to a specific section of that very rulebook.

NHL Rule 46.2 states:

Aggressor – 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.

A player must be deemed the aggressor when he has clearly won the fight but he continues throwing and landing punches in a further attempt to inflict punishment and/or injury on his opponent who is no longer in a position to defend himself.

A player who is deemed to be the aggressor of an altercation shall be assessed a major penalty for fighting and a game misconduct.

A player who is deemed to be the aggressor of an altercation will have this recorded as an aggressor of an altercation for statistical and suspension purposes.

A player who is deemed to be both the instigator and aggressor of an altercation shall be assessed an instigating minor penalty, a major penalty for fighting, a ten-minute misconduct(instigator) and a game misconduct penalty(aggressor).”

While this is all true, and Emery was indeed given the aggressor label at the end of this game, another rule, Rule 46.17 states:

“…a player who is deemed to be the aggressor for the third time in one regular season shall be suspended for the next two regular season games of his team.”

Therefore, league officials are technically prohibited from penalizing Emery themselves.

Apparently, however, authoritative figures in the NHL aren’t intelligent enough to read deeper into their own set of regulations.

I proudly present to you all NHL Rule 28.1:

“Supplementary Discipline – In addition to the automatic fines and suspensions imposed under these rules, the Commissioner may, at his discretion, investigate any incident that occurs in connection with any Pre-season, Exhibition, League or Playoff game and may assess additional fines and/or suspensions for any offense committed during the course of a game or any aftermath thereof by a player, goalkeeper, Trainer, Manager, Coach or non-playing Club personnel or Club executive, whether or not such offense has been penalized by the Referee.”

We already despise you, Gary Bettman. Now look what you’ve done. You had all the power in the world needed to suspend Emery and/or fine the Philadelphia organization yourself, and your administration did nothing. You’ve willingly, knowingly, and intentionally allowed senseless violence to overshadow the great game we’ve all come to know and love without showing even the tiniest bit of concern. You’ve successfully condoned and endorsed this kind of behavior throughout your league, and it’s unforgivable. Take pride in knowing that you, the all-esteemed Commissioner of the National Hockey League, has said to every other team and every other player that, “You know what? If you’re losing by 6 or 7 goals, and you feel you have no chance at coming back to compete in a game, start running people. Go ahead and jump ‘em. You have a sudden strong urge to forcibly bash an opposing player’s skull in? Go right ahead and follow through with your desire.” Thanks Bettman, we appreciate it.

In the interest of time, I’m going to wrap this rant up with easily the most ridiculous part of this whole entire situation. As displayed on NHL.com following every game, an official list of the three stars of the game are presented. Let’s take a quick look at those “stars” shall we?

The first star of the game – Joel Ward who registered a hat trick, undoubtedly the right choice.

The second star of the game – Nicklas Backstrom with a goal and two assists, which was well deserved.

The third and final star of the game – I know what you’re thinking, maybe Braden Holtby, right? Thirty saves for the shutout even after enduring the brutality of a madman. Maybe even Jason Chimera, who had a huge performance tallying one goal and three assists for a career-high 4-point night. Turns out, neither of those two men were the third star. That coveted spot was awarded to the madman himself, Ray ‘The Enforcer’ Emery. With a stellar .733 save percentage stopping 11 of 15 shots he faced, a total of 22:47 time on ice between the pipes, and a whopping 29 penalty minutes, he was obviously the clear-cut option when Flyers beat writer Frank Seravalli was putting in his votes. He actually revealed himself to the entire hockey universe when he tweeted this following the game:

I have the three stars vote tonight. Is it screwed up to give one to Ray Emery… you know, just for the hell of it?

No, Frank. It isn’t screwed up. You’re not a moron at all.

Too much sarcasm again?

 

——–

Legal Analysis Courtesy of LWOS’ Own Resident Lawyer, Ben Kerr:

While some might think that Dom’s assessment that Ray Emery committed an assault in this case is absurd, in the eyes of the law its actually not.  Sure, fights happen all the time in hockey and the fighters aren’t charged with assault.  However there is a big difference, in most hockey fights we have two willing combatants who knowingly go into the situation aware that they are going to be punched in the face, and consent to the attack as part of the game.  They are both willing to accept the risks and it is mutually accepted that the two will be applying physical force to each other.

In this instance this is clearly not the case.  The video makes it clear that Holtby wanted no part in the altercation.  Emery’s own words after the game indicate that he knew that Holtby was not willing to fight and continued to pummel him anyway.  There is no mutual consent present in the situation.  Fighting is outside the rules of the game, it is prohibited through major penalties.  It is not something that one consents to merely by being on the ice but takes something more, such as the words most pugilists exchange before a bout, or the understood act of dropping the gloves.  It is not a normal risk of the game like an elbow or an errant high stick, the fact that Emery’s act was premeditated and intentional, in that he skated the length of the ice with the sole intention of attacking Holtby is a key factor.

While it is unlikely that Emery will actually face charges, it is not without precedent either.  A similar situation occured a few years ago in the QMJHL and Jonathan Roy, Patrick Roy’s son, then the backup goalie for the Quebec Remparts skated the length of the ice and viciously attacked opposing goaltender Bobby Nadeau in a blowout game.  Jonathan Roy was charged with assault and pled guilty, he was given an absolute discharge but forced to donate $5000 to various local charities.

 

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4 Comments

  1. Michael

    November 3, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    Just suspend him a game and call it over, I do not want to see the NHL pursue this further for fear of going overboard and having players sign papers before each individual scuffle.

  2. Theo

    November 3, 2013 at 10:59 pm

    Classless? Sure. Deserving of additional discipline? No. You open a giant and unnecessary can of worms when you use what essentially is the elastic clause that says the NHL can punish anyone for doing anything.

    Holtby didn’t just turtle. He didn’t want to fight, but he was swinging back. If he had just completely gone to the ice and covered up, I’m sure there would be something additional. But just because Holtby didn’t want to fight, but eventually did, doesn’t warrant a suspension of Emery.

    Also, I personally think the main reason Holtby was resistant, was because he was protecting a shutout with 15 minutes left. He knew that getting a fighting major would cost him a shutout. If that game is 7-1 I think he comes out swinging.

    • Ben Kerr, Admin

      November 3, 2013 at 11:01 pm

      How does a fighting major cost him a shutout? That does not make sense…. Holtby would not be forced to serve a fighting major. It is only a misconduct or a match penalty that a goalie would have to serve.

      As for Holtby fighting back. He never got off his blocker and glove and was being repeatedly punched before he does anything. That is a natural reaction to try and get Emery off of him, it doesn’t indicate he consented to the fight, and Emery’s repeated donkey punches to the back of the head when Holtby is down and out show that even when he had no ability to defend himself, Emery keeps hitting him. There is a reason why strikes to the back of the head are banned in boxing and MMA, and its because they have the potential to do serious spinal cord damage. I’m sorry but this is an isolated incident that doesn’t open a can of worms. I don’t see a lot of NHL incidents in the last decade that compare to what Emery did.

  3. obliteron

    November 4, 2013 at 12:53 am

    Matt Carkner was suspended for 1 game for jumping Brian Boyle. How is the Emery situation not the same?

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