Ray Emery will not be suspended for his actions on Friday night, and that's the wrong call. He skated down the ice, challenged and beat up an unwilling opponent, something that should never take place on a hockey rink. Or anywhere, for that matter, but certainly not on a hockey rink.
Emery didn't even give Capitals goalie Braden Holtby a choice, telling him as much before he pummeled him with blows to the back of the head.
But according to the rules on the books, the NHL has no grounds to suspend Emery for what he did. Let's take a look at Rule 46, which defines and regulates fighting. According to 46.2, Emery was absolutely the aggressor:
46.2 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 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).
I was kind of amazed reading this that the NHL rulebook actually outlines a situation in which a player attacks an unwilling combatant on the ice. I mean, that's the phrase they use -- unwilling combatant.
Emery was obviously the instigator as well, so according to this section, his actions were worth a two-minute minor for instigating, five for fighting, a 10 and the game. That's what he got.
He also has the incident "recorded" on his record, sort of like check mark against his name as the aggressor of the fight. Why is that part of the rule in place? Because suspension guidelines are very strict when it comes to fighting. Here are the exact rules around when the NHL can fine or suspend a player who's been the aggressor in a fight:
46.17 Fines and Suspensions - Aggressor - 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.
For the fourth aggressor penalty in the same Regular season, the player will be suspended for the next four games of his team. For the fifth aggressor penalty in the same Regular season, the player will be suspended for the next six games of his team.
During the Play-offs, any player who is deemed to be the aggressor for the second time shall be suspended automatically for the next Play-off game of his team. For each subsequent aggressor violation during the Play-offs, the automatic suspension shall be increased by one game.
Prior to the commencement of each Stanley Cup Final, a player or goalkeeper will have his current aggressor violations removed from his current playoff record. They will remain part of his historical record.
During the regular season, the NHL cannot suspend an aggressor of a fight unless he's done it three times in a season. Rule 28.1 does give the league wide latitude to hand out supplemental discipline regardless of other rules, but that doesn't change what they have outlined in their rulebook.
The NHL defines an aggressor in black and white terms as a player who, among other things, "continues to throw punches at an unwilling opponent." Couple that with "third man in" rules that prevent teammates of that "unwilling opponent" to step in, and you basically have a rulebook that allows assault and battery.
Do you have a problem with what Ray Emery did last night? You might want to call the NHL about it.