League blows it again, this time over Emery fight.


Jun 30, 2013; Newark, NJ, USA; Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger (right) shakes hands with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman during the 2013 NHL Draft at the Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Most of us are not fans of Gary Bettman. While he has brought hockey to a wider audience, he has offended a lot of the core fan base over the years. His stubbornness over ‘Sunbelt hockey’ caused the Phoenix Coyotes fiasco cost the league over a hundred million dollars and required four years to clean up that mess. Bettman has been at the helm for three work stoppages, and the fans are never remiss in booing him whenever he makes an appearance at a stadium on a hockey night.

The commissioner of the league had an opportunity to address the debacle that occurred between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Washington Capitals. The Flyers engaged in a line brawl while being thoroughly humiliated by a better Capitals team. At one point Flyers goalie Ray Emery charged out his crease, and all put assaulted Capitals goalie Braden Holtby.  While some of the fans loved it, a lot of people wondered what sort of ‘Shanaban’ was going to be levied for that type of shenanigans.

The Department of Player Safety and the Commissioner’s office chose not to levy any fine or penalty upon any member of the Flyers. The reasoning behind this blundered call was essentially there was no law on the books the DoPS or Bettman could use to punish the offending players. Bettman offered this as his defense while announcing that the city of Columbus would be the beneficiary of the 2015 NHL All-Star Game.

“We constantly monitor and look at the game,” Bettman said. “There was no rule that was violated to elevate things to the level of a suspension. It’s something we’ll continue to discuss. I don’t think anybody liked it, liked what it looked like. Fortunately it’s not something that happens very often. But I’m sure it’s something we’ll focus on, particularly with the general managers.”

That’s the commissioner for you. I thought I would help out the league (and Mr. Bettman) by reminding them of one of their rules.

“28.1 Supplementary Discipline In addition to the automatic fines and suspensions imposed under these rules, the Commissioner may, at his discretion, investigate any incident that occurs in connection with any Pre-season, Exhibition, League or Playoff game and may assess additional fines and/or suspensions for any offense committed during the course of a game or any aftermath thereof by a player, goalkeeper, Trainer, Manager, Coach or non-playing Club personnel or Club executive, whether or not such offense has been penalized by the Referee.”

Bettman had all the authority (not to mention responsibility) to issue something a lot stronger than a condemnation. Once again, the league falls back on a policy of targeted indifference and conscious negligence when a potential problem occurs. Bettman could have clearly argued this in a way that would have set a clear example to the league, and mollified the players’ union in one stroke.

He chose not to. Now we’ll just wait and see when the next incredibly boneheaded maneuver occurs.