The Flyers choice to let off the frustration and steam of a bad start to the season highlighted by a blowout loss at home to a division rival by involving themselves in five fights in a game – with four at one time – stirred the pot about the need for fighting in hockey as well as the questioning of the goalie fight – if you want to call it that – between Ray Emery and a very unwilling Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals.
Of course, listening to some out of town commentary regarding the fight, especially when words like “assault” are being bandied about can be equally aggravating as the losing itself. Some treated the event like it was unencumbered violence at the ice capades.
Last time I checked, it was hockey. And what happened was within the rules of the sport. You can challenge the rules of the game as arcane if you wish, but the rules are what they are. This wasn’t the first time there was a fight where one participant turtled under the pummeling of the other, nor will it be the last – even if the NHL decides to try to change the rules, much to the chagrin of those playing the game who understand why it exists as it is currently.
Like the Flyers themselves, who feel like it could have been a bit of a rallying cry and a team-building moment.
When guys like Vincent Lecavalier and Brayden Schenn are fighting because nothing else is going right and hope that it will startle a team out of its doldrums, it leaves a mark.
It lets everyone know that there is no quit in the team. Sure, you can blow them out of their own building. Sure you can cackle at the fact that they are temporarily in last place in the division. But, don’t think this team is going to quit on itself.
“Obviously, fighting is part of the game,” said Scott Hartnell. “It’s been a while since you see three or four fights in one stoppage and a goalie going down and attacking another team’s goalie,” “People are all over Razor for doing that. But look what he did. He played solid for us [the next night] and got us a shutout. We were excited. Even though the crowd booed us the whole game, it felt like a win after that little scrum.
“We love it, fans love it here in Philly. It’s part of our heritage. We definitely fed off it. We got to keep doing it. We can’t win one and lose two every time. It’s got to continue.”
Some might interpret that as embracing goonery. A wiser person might look at it as a team that’s not going to skate off, tail between its legs, because it has played poorly.
After all, that is the alternative. And if I’m rooting for a professional sports team and I see they just settle for losing, I question their approach from the top down.
As f or a team who shows fight – and in hockey that’s done sometimes by actually fighting – I’m willing to give them more of a chance, or at the very least some respect.
There are a lot of things the Flyers can be criticized about after a 4-9-0 start – and deservedly so – but to continue to try to portray the organization as being “stuck in the 70s” or “more concerned with fighting than winning” is about as lazy an assessment as still saying Philadelphia fans boo Santa Claus.
And to say fighting should be banned from the game, or penalized more harshly is asinine as well. The game is far more dangerous today than it ever was because of the speed in which it’s played and the size of the equipment and callousness of some of the players as far as their respect for their fellow athletes with regard to cheap shots .
Take fighting away, and watch those dirty hits escalate, because there is no retribution.
“For me, it’s always been a part of the game,” Lecavalier said. “There’s less and less fighting. That’s for sure.But I think it’s part of the game. If they do stop it one day or whatever they decide to do, you definitely have to protect from those guys running other guys and stuff like that.
“Right now, the way the game is, it’s declining. It really is. Since 1998 when I got into the league to now, there’s less and less and I think it’s part of the game. I guess it’s not my decision to see what’s going to happen in the future.”
Lecavalier will be back in the lineup for the Flyers Tuesday in Raleigh against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Despite reports to the contrary that Lecavalier has a broken jaw and would miss at least two weeks, the Flyers leading scorer will return after a one game absence with what is being called “facial bruising.”
While there are no outward signs of a bruise, it’s likely that the bruise is a bone bruise somewhere within his face.
As a result, Lecavalier will protect his face for a bit by wearing a half-shield, half cage until his bruising has healed.
He liked that hybrid version better than a full cage because it allowed him to see more of the ice and see the puck better.
Not known for being a fighter, Lecavalier still has had his share of scraps over the years. According to hockeyfights.com, the fight on Friday with Steve Olesky of Washington as part of the line brawl that erupted in the 7-0 Flyers loss, was the 25th fight of Lecavalier’s career.
“It kind of just happens,” Lecavalier said. “It’s part of the game. We needed a spark and [Wayne Simmonds] and Ray [Emery] obviously started that. There’s a lot of frustration with the players. We’re down at that time. Frustration comes with it. It just happened.
“I don’t fight all the time, but it happens sometimes that I do. [Brayden Schenn], same thing. He’s an offensive guy, but he fought a few times in training camp and I’ve seen it in the past. Things happen. We’ll just try to definitely build from that moment.”
EMERY JOINS BLACKHAWKS FOR A DAY
Emery was not at practice with the Flyers Monday because he was in Washington D.C. with his former team, the Chicago Blackhawks, meeting President Barack Obama as part of the Stanley Cup celebration at the White House.
“It was pretty cool,” Emery said. “I had to go through a lot of different security checks but then we had a tour and then the president came in and introduced himself. We had the ceremony and the press conference, [Obama] made a speech and then we made our way out. It was pretty exciting.
“For me being a black person to meet him, who is somewhat of an inspirational figure was pretty cool. It was a special day. I’ll definitely remember it.
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @InsideTheFlyers