Flyers-Capitals Line Brawl Shows '3rd Man into Fight' Rule Needs Addressing

Isaac SmithAnalyst INovember 2, 2013

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 01: Ray Emery #29 of the Philadelphia Flyers fights Braden Holtby #70 of the Washington Capitals in the third period on November 1, 2013 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)
Len Redkoles/Getty Images

The game between the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals Friday night quickly escalated to the next level, featuring a full line brawl, with goalies fighting as well. But something came to the forefront of the fight between Braden Holtby and Ray Emery.

Player safety.

More specifically, the "third man into a fight" rule. As Ray Emery was pounding down on the back of Braden Holtby's head, it should have occurred to those watching that it wasn't so much a fight as it was a one-sided beating.

Section 46.16 of the NHL rulebook, titled "Third Man In," states the following:

A game misconduct penalty, at the discretion of the Referee, shall be imposed on any player who is the first to intervene (third man in) in an altercation already in progress except when a match penalty is being imposed in the original altercation. This penalty is in addition to any other penalties incurred in the same incident.

With the NHL strongly enforcing player safety by punishing hits to the head with supplemental discipline, it would only make sense to protect players further during a fight as well.

The main problem with this fight is that, as stated above, it wasn't a fight. It was a clear-cut slaughter by Ray Emery.

Though Ray Emery would pick up 29 penalty minutes on the play, it still didn't quite feel right when the brawl was all said and done. And it wasn't just because Emery was the third star of the game despite allowing four goals on 15 shots.

No, what is unfair for the Capitals is that a third person into the "fight" would likely received an automatic game misconduct, as the referee was shown waiving players away from the Holtby-Emery bout.

Game misconducts, per NHL rule 23.1, carry an automatic $200 fine with a potential for supplemental discipline as well.

No players were suspended from this brawl, per The Score.

But the point still stands. David Clarkson got an automatic 10-game suspension for leaving the bench. He became the third man into a fight in a preseason game. Paul Bissonnette had a leaving-the-bench penalty reduced to a three-game suspension.

While no one left the bench in Philadelphia Friday, the fact is that getting a game misconduct for sticking up for a teammate is unfortunately the way things would transpire if these results happened again.

Game misconducts create a lot of unnecessary paperwork (see NHL rule 23.2-23.3) and headaches for all involved.

It is abundantly clear that since there are only two linesmen in a game—and the two referees usually (as in the video of the brawl above) have no interest getting involved in the fight—that there are some changes that need to be made to protect player safety.

Essentially, the automatic game misconduct for being the third man in during a line brawl has to go in instances one player clearly is unwilling to fight and, in Holtby's case, unable to protect himself.

Though no referee wants to elevate an existing altercation, it is abundantly clear that players that are on the ice need to be able to stand up for players that don't stand a chance otherwise.

If the referee isn't going to step in to stop the beating, then players should be allowed to do so, in this instance especially.