Emery’s Attack On Holtby Was Indefensible.

Philadelphia Flyers goalie Ray Emery skating the length of the ice to attack Washington Capitals netminder Bradon Holtby during a line brawl in a recent game between the two teams created a stir within the hockey world.

Emery was widely condemned for provoking a fight with a clearly reluctant Holtby, but received no supplemental discipline for his actions.  Under NHL rules there’s nothing to prevent a goaltender from leaving his crease to partake in a fight at the other end of the rink.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan voiced their disapproval of Emery’s actions, leading to speculation the league could implement a new rule in which a goalie leaving the defensive zone to join in a fight could face suspension.

Emery wasn’t without his supporters. Though the fight didn’t change the game’s outcome (a lopsided 7-0 win for the Capitals), he was named the game’s third star. It’s been suggested Emery was simply doing his part as a good teammate in a brawl involving every player on the ice. His defenders believe his actions provided the struggling Flyers with a much-needed spark which had been lacking since the start of the season.

Ray Emery's attack on Braden Holtby didn't sit well with NHL headquarters.

Ray Emery’s attack on Braden Holtby didn’t sit well with NHL headquarters.


It’s one thing if Emery was attacked by another player around his net, or jumping in to save a teammate from a beating, or if Holtby was the aggressor.

That’s not what happened. Emery skated the length of the ice and tried to provoke Holtby into fighting. When the Capitals goalie expressed his unwillingness, Emery essentially told him to defend himself and started swinging.

This wasn’t Emery’s first dance in a line brawl, tangling with Martin Biron during a scrap several years ago against the Buffalo Sabres, then exchanging punches with Sabres tough guy Andrew Peters. The difference then was Biron and Peters were willing participants.

To be fair, Emery doesn’t have a reputation for instigating fights. His only NHL suspension was three games for striking former Montreal Canadiens forward Maxim Lapierre in the face with his stick. Indeed, since his early NHL seasons with the Ottawa Senators,  Emery’s matured as a player and a person.

While there’s nothing in the rule book preventing Emery from challenging Holtby to a fight, he had no reason to push the issue when it was obvious the Capitals netminder wanted no part of it. Holtby did nothing to provoke Emery. He didn’t attack one of Emery’s teammates, nor was he fighting one of them.

Suggesting Emery gained respect from his teammates and Flyers fans for pummeling Holtby is nonsense. He has nine NHL seasons under his belt, which includes a  season with the Flyers. He had no reason to prove himself in such a manner.

It’s been argued Emery and the Flyers were “sending a message”, that they were sick and tired of their poor start and simply venting their frustrations.

Did it change the outcome of the game? No. Are rival clubs now fearful of the Flyers? No. This isn’t the era of the Broad Street Bullies, where the Flyers won two championships and dominated the league with equal parts menace and talent.

It was pointless for Emery to attack Holtby. It served no purpose. His actions were indefensible.

If the NHL has its way, Emery– or any other goalie – won’t get away with leaving their defensive zone to partake in another line brawl.


  1. He is a goon player on a goon team. Stuck in the mindset of the 70’s. If you want to send a message about the 7-0 loss, send it in your own locker room and front office. Then again, the front office doesn’t have a problem with actions like this because they are lost in the 70’s as well. There has to be a “bottom of the barrel” in everything, and the Flyers have proven that they have pride in being the bottom of the barrel of the NHL. Garbage is as garbage does.

  2. While I realize you can’t prove a counter-factual, I think the restrictions on fighting are partly responsible for this.

    What should happen is that the next time the Caps play the Flyers, a Washington tough guy should pull off Emery’s mask and pummel him. Then the real message would be sent. In the old days, something like that would have happened. But Emery knows that’s not going to happen. So he can skate down the ice and start a fight without the fear of consequences later.

    • Emery is an extremely tough customer and can tangle with just about anyone in the league. Anybody that’s not a super heavyweight is gonna have their hands full.

      • I don’t like what Emery did but Peterman is right, anyone who thinks they are going to just pummel Emery is going to have another thing coming.

  3. Lyle please correct me if I’m wrong but if the current ‘rules’ don’t prevent a goaltender from leaving his crease to etc. etc., can’t Commisioner Bettman step in and suspend or fine a player who’s actions have been, for the lack of a better term, detrimental to the league? I believe that’s the case and if so they’ve shown a real lack of leadership with this…

    • Not without the consent of the Board of Governors and the NHLPA.

      • Thanks Lyle, I guess that explains things then.

  4. Team guy. Good on Emery to
    put some life in his team.
    Too bad Holtby stood there.
    Would have done the same.
    All you non fighters or physical types go watch some other sport. This is a big game, stop crying.
    Getting embarrassed at home is a no no.

  5. Well wrote. Indeed if a player is not willing to fight, then let it go. Bashing on someone like that was Emery just attempting to be mucho. Just cause his talent level isn’t where Holtby’s is at. Definitely a jerky move by someone out to show he can beat up harmless players. George’s Laraque should come out of retirement and tune him up lol Fight if it’s called for, not just to be a bully.

    • Well written, I meant :p

  6. Too bad Felix Potvin wasn’t in net for the Caps, he’d have sent Emery to the lockers bloodied.

  7. Emery has always been a loose cannon. Cowards and bullies share some very distinct traits which is why most cowards are also bullies. Both will willingly attack or instigate a fight with an unwilling particpant simply because they know that because the other person is not a fighter there is a very good chance the bully can give him a beating and look tough in front of a crowd. And that is all the bully wants is that image or impression he is a tough guy. Had I been there playing for Washington, there is no way my coach would have kept me on the bench while I watch a goon, posing as a very mediocre goalie, thump out mu goalie who didnt want any part of a fight. Had I been coaching Washington, bring on the fines and suspensions, but I would have kicked open my doors and told my players to resuce their goalie. In the old days, when a player done something as stupid as Emery did, even his own players were disgusted. No one wants to have a coward or bully as a team mate. Betcha Emery was real popular in the dressing room later.,