There was nothing wrong with the fight between Pittsburgh's Arron Asham and Washington's Jay Beagle Thursday night.
To agree upon this, we have to agree upon a few key factors:
1. There is fighting in hockey
Fighting is not prohibited in the NHL rulebook. There are players whose careers are built sometimes solely upon their ability to fight. The league does not condemn it. There are unspoken rules surrounding it. As far as pugilism goes, it's a controlled action and one that the league hasn't exactly made an effort to expel.
2. Asham and Beagle fought cleanly
Jay Beagle went high on Penguins defenseman Kris Letang, the team's leading point scorer and one of the perceived "skill" guys on the roster. When Beagle knocked his lid off (for which he received a roughing minor), Asham took exception. Beagle accepted Asham's invitation, and the two squared each other up, as is appropriate.
3. The Holier Than Thou Angle Does Not Apply
As Puck Daddy's Greg Wyshynski so eloquently demonstrates, you've never fought in the NHL.
"If you've been in a fight and knocked out an opponent at center ice in front of 17,000 delirious fans, then I'll listen to what you have to say on Asham's actions.
"Otherwise, it's another case of a preachy, manufactured controversy being chiseled out of unfiltered human emotion."
So then, what of the controversy surrounding Asham's gestures following the fight? Does it really compare to similar actions, like the New York Islanders' Trevor Gillies taunting of Pittsburgh's Eric Tangradi?
For one, Asham was the first to admit that the gesturing (he made a "safe" sign and then folded his hands beneath his cheek as if sleeping) was uncalled for.
He even went so far as to call his own actions "classless."
"Obviously I want to win, but I don’t want to go out there and hurt anyone. My gestures after it was done, I was into the game.
"It was uncalled for, classless on my part. I think those guys over there know I’m not that kind of guy to be going off, but it was a big game. I wanted to get my bench going.
"Classless move on my part.”
Asham's comments illustrate that he understands the art of fighting, even if the intensity of the game led to a few questionable hand signals.
At that, any complaint about the gestures should be qualified by recognizing that Asham let go of Beagle when he was down, then later gave the youngster a stick tap from the penalty box as he skated off the ice.
In perspective, it was an emotional moment in an emotional game. But to vilify Asham because he made a few unloved expressions is ridiculous.
Let's remember that the problem here isn't how hard Asham punched a man in the face.
The problem here is that he made an unacceptable hand motion?
This is a non-story, and the NHL quickly and rightly quashed any notion of controversy.
"Nothing will come of the Asham incident," the league said in an official statement. "Asham was remorseful after the game and didn't realize how badly hurt Beagle was at the time of the incident."
If fighting is part of the game, let it be part of the game. Goal scorers aren't reprimanded for celebrating proudly after scoring a highlight-reel goal.
So why should a tough guy be reprimanded for celebrating proudly after landing a good punch?
The Capitals will remember the fight, and the Penguins will remember the loss. These teams don't need any further motivation to hate one another.
Besides, if one of Washington's tough guys ends up challenging Asham to a fight in their next meeting in December, the outrage for a fight planned nearly two months in advance won't be nearly as vitriolic as the salvos cast at Asham Thursday.
Instead, it'll just be an even-up thing. Beagle's teammates will stick up for him, just as Letang's did Thursday.
See how ridiculous the semantics can be when one argues the right way to punch a man in the face?
Cheap shots are one thing, and deliberate taunting is another, but Asham immediately had the good sense to comment remorsefully on his actions and cheered Beagle for getting back up.
The only controversy here is that some will try to spin one out of thin air.
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