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NHL doesn't suspend Flyers' Ray Emery for instigating fight

NHL executives did not suspend or otherwise punish Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Ray Emery for his length-of-the-rink dash Friday and instigation of a fight with unwilling Washington goaltender Braden Holtby, deciding that the league’s rule book did not allow for punishment beyond what was assessed on the ice after the incident.

League executives would not comment publicly on their thinking, but it is believed they felt there were no specific rules that could be applied in this situation. The NHL can suspend players for conduct detrimental to the league but that provision is not part of the “playing rules” and is generally reserved for application to off-ice conduct, as with Sean Avery’s infamous “sloppy seconds” comment in 2008.

Emery was deemed the aggressor in the altercation Friday and was given a two-minute minor penalty for instigating a fight, two minutes for leaving his crease, a five-minute major penalty for fighting, a misconduct penalty, and a game misconduct. He started for the Flyers on Saturday against the Devils at New Jersey and helped Philadelphia to a 1-0 victory.

However, according to sources familiar with the league’s thinking but unauthorized to speak publicly, NHL executives are aware of the public-relations beating they have taken as Emery’s actions have been rebroadcast and viewed on the Internet, and they aren't happy with it. General negative reaction to the incident — which was broadcast on the NHL Network — is likely to trigger debate over at least considering language to cover such a situation in the future. NHL general managers are scheduled for a regular meeting later this month in Toronto.

There is precedent for suspending a player who instigates a fight against an unwilling opponent, per NHL rule 46.2. In April 2012, Brendan Shanahan of the NHL’s Department of Player Safety suspended Ottawa’s Matt Carkner for fighting an unwilling Brian Boyle of the New York Rangers, but the league for some reason chose not to follow that precedent in this case. 

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