Photo credit: Gene J. Puskar
Thursday’s game between the Penguins and Capitals was an exciting affair, but it was the third period fight between Jay Beagle and Arron Asham that got people talking.
After roughing Kris Letang, Jay Beagle was approached by Arron Asham, a known fighter with more than 70 bouts on his rap sheet according to hockeyfights.com. The fight left Jay Beagle apparently knocked out, bleeding on the ice, and requiring help to get up. Asham skated away from the fight and made pro-wrestling-style gestures that could translate as “it’s over, he’s asleep.”
Beagle spit out blood, pulled out a tooth, and retreated to the locker room. As Beagle got up, Asham banged his stick from the penalty box out of respect. Arron and Jay served matching major penalties, Beagle doing so from off ice. Also served by Beagle was the original two-minute penalty for roughing Letang. Asham was not assessed an instigator penalty.
We do not yet know the severity of Jay Beagle’s injury.
Here’s the fight:
Following the game, Asham took a lot of blame– some of it from us– for taunting and grandstanding after injuring a player. Alex Ovechkin said of the fight:
[Beagle is] not a fighter; it’s not his job to fight. I don’t know, it looked kind of not respectful for players on [a] different team. I don’t know what people think, but I think it’s not respectful.
Speaking to the Washington Times, defenseman Karl Alzner added:
It’s classless. But I know that happens in fights. It’s really crappy to see. Have some class a little bit, ya know?
That’s the way Beags is. He’s not going to back down from anybody. It’s unfortunate the way it happened. Hopefully he’s not out for too long. Asham’s doing his job. But I didn’t see what it did, but if he did do something, I expect more from him.
Aware of the criticism to his taunt, Arron responded:
It’s unfortunate the way the fight ended. Obviously I want to win. I don’t want to go out there and hurt anyone. My gestures at the end there, I was into the game. It was uncalled for. Classless on my part. I think those guys over there know that I’m not that type of guy to be going off. It was a big game you know. I wanted to get my bench going. Classless move on my part.
Where do we go from here?
For those allegations of classlessness, Asham gets mercy. He was contrite without being forced, and he faced his criticism head-on, which you have to admire.
The missing instigator call is disappointing in this writer’s opinion. Rule 46.11 of the NHL rulebook makes a good case for this example, but the rule hasn’t not been enforced regularly lately. So why is it on the books at all?
Our peers in Pittsburgh brought up the possibility that Beagle should have been penalized for wearing a visor during a fight, but skimming the rulebook (75.2.iv) tells us that call is only for instigators.
We asked our friends and readers, the really hockey-smart ones at least, to share their thoughts about the fight. Is there a warrior’s code that dictates the victor should be solemn in victory? Was Asham out of line? Was Beagle unwise to engage?
from Dan Bylsma’s perspective, Asham did all the right things. The fight started because Asham felt he needed to defend Letang, which is pretty much the reason a guy like Asham is on an NHL roster. Added bonus: Pens are down a goal, and this is an opportunity to fire up the crowd and his bench. Asham wins the fight, he celebrates, firing up the crowd even more.
Beagle needs to make a better decision there and decline the fight when a guy like Asham challenges him. Also, when the instigator rule specifically notes “obvious retribution for a previous incident in the game or season” as one of the criteria for an instigator penalty, how does Asham not get an instigator here?
I don’t think it was right at all. You gotta act like you’ve been there before. No one takes kindly to gloaters.
I wouldn’t go as far to say that a player should be totally solemn after winning a fight, especially in a rivalry game where he won with a strong knockout blow. No harm in a cocky smile or a look over at the bench, but I think the warrior code would say that such actions are an invitation for somebody else to step up and challenge him.
I do think that the gestures were over the top, and that a real warrior would let the punch speak for itself. It doesn’t break the warrior code, but it does indicate that the guy isn’t really much of a warrior.
In itself I don’t think the fight was warranted, but Asham saw Beagle messing with Letang and it’s understandable on his part to step up. Beagle accepted, got his butt whupped, and that’s fine.
It’s not okay to taunt after knocking a guy out like that. In my mind, that doesn’t mean that a winning fighter shouldn’t be excited or demonstrative. I would have been fine if Asham had just raised his hand or interacted with the crowd or his teammates. It’s fine if you draw attention to yourself as a winner, and if it’s a fight to give your team energy, to draw attention to that. Fighting is showmanship. It’s absolutely out of line to make fun of an opponent’s injuries. Yeah, Asham skated away after dropping Beagle, but he was well aware that he did some serious damage with his last two punches, and that demands respect.
I’m not sure there is a real warrior’s code. There is one, inasmuch as people like Don Cherry, Mike Milbury, and lots of other people in the media say there is. Is there a code in the practical sense, as observed by the players? Not so sure. There’s respect and understanding, but not this whole “unwritten” code like the one that gets lionized in baseball.
(Warning: these photos are a little graphic and could be upsetting.)
Photo credit: Gregory Shamus
Photo credit: Gene J. Puskar
Photo credit: Justin K. Aller
Photo credit: Justin K. Aller
Additional reporting by Ian Oland.