GLENDALE, Ariz. — Flyers goalie Ray Emery made national headlines when he skated the length of the ice to attack and pummel unwilling Capitals goalie Braden Holtby in Washington’s 7-0 win in Philadelphia on Friday, setting off a melee.
Some have blamed the officials for not intervening sooner and exacting greater punishment on Emery, who has other fights to his credit. Some have criticized NHL commissioner Gary Bettman for not using the considerable latitude of his power to punish Emery severely; instead, Emery received no supplemental discipline, although it was reported Monday that the league is considering an automatic 10-game ban for a goalie who leaves his zone to participate in a fight.
Both are worthy of discussion, but on Monday, Coyotes goalie coach and assistant to the GM Sean Burke, who played 19 years as an NHL goaltender, pointed the finger squarely at the greatest offender.
“There’s a great story in Ray Emery coming back from injury and all the things he’s overcome to crawl back in the league, so give credit where credit is due,” Burke said of the Flyers backup who resurrected his career last season as a successful backup for the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks. “But what he did to Holtby, that’s not the kind of stuff that is good at all for the game. The biggest joke is that they named him the third star in the game. To me, that’s classless, and whoever picked that, that’s making a mockery of the game.
“Holtby had a shutout going and he could have been injured. He’s a Team Canada candidate. Maybe not a favorite, but he’s playing for a lot right now, and that was just bullying. When you punch a guy 10 times in the back of the head, that’s not being tough. Tough is a goalie sticking up for a teammate because he’s getting abused or something happens in the course of the game where the intention is to even things out.
“This is not a guy (Holtby) who deserved to be put in that situation. He tried to avoid it, then tried to protect himself and then was overwhelmed by a guy who has a lot more experience fighting and a guy who probably has a lot of anger built up in him over the way things were going in that game and this season.”
Burke said the situation would be no different if Coyotes enforcer Paul Bissonnette decided to pummel a non-fighter such as Ducks forward Saku Koivu.
“When you’re beating up Holtbys and Marty Birons, that’s not tough,” Burke said. “There’s been a lot of big goalies in this league he’s played that I have never seen him go near. As one of the bigger goalies in the league and a guy who thought he could defend himself, I’d be embarrassed to do what he did.
“I understand trying to motivate your team somehow. I get that, but that was over the top.”
Burke found it disturbing that some blamed Holtby for not defending himself.
“Anybody defending Emery’s actions by saying Holtby’s at fault in any way — that’s just archaic,” Burke said. “How would people have felt if Holtby had taken his stick and two-handed Ray Emery? Would that have been justifiable to protect himself? What can you do? What are you allowed to do to defend yourself against a guy against whom you’re overmatched?”