If there’s a conventional wisdom among hockey people about the Arron Asham-Jay Beagle fight Thursday night, it goes like this: Beagle started matters by going after the uber-skilled Kris Letang. Asham did his job by challenging Beagle, who accepted the challenge. The cost of that was Beagle getting his head punched in, which players on both teams could respect. But Asham then ruined the gentleman’s code by making fun of the injured Beagle.
The actual quotes from the actual talking heads follow below.
ESPN’s Barry Melrose: “Beagle came out and he’s not a fighter, Beagle’s not a tough guy, but he’s trying to get his team fired up. It was a close game at the time, he went after Letang. Letang is as good a defenseman as there is in the game, Pittsburgh can’t have any liberties taken against a player of Letang’s stature right now with the injuries to Crosby and Malkin just coming back. Asham sticks up for his teammate, he lets Washington know that you’re not gonna take liberties against our best players, I’ll stand up for ‘em, and right there he really sent a message to the Washington Capitals.”
“And the people that are against fighting, right there is what fighting is for. It was a message sender. There was a reason that fight happened. It wasn’t just violence. It wasn’t just two guys trying to put on a show. Asham was sending a message to the Washington Capitals, Beagle was trying to send a message from Washington to Pittsburgh. And right there you see the value of a fight in the game. It changed the game around for a while, Pittsburgh took control of it after that, ended up tying it up and it went into overtime where Pittsburgh lost. Protect the skilled players. The player is the deterrent. The referee’s not protecting the player, the player’s protecting players on his own team.”
TSN’s Bob McKenzie: “There’s nothing good about any of this. Obviously when you see a player in that much distress going off the ice, and Arron Asham to make the gestures that are more along the lines of professional wrestling as opposed to professional hockey….It was Asham’s job from the Pittsburgh Penguins’ side to go and settle the score, and Beagle took up the offer, and it was obviously a mismatch in terms of the fight. Those things happen and it’s pretty disgusting to see a guy go down like that. People will say there’s no excuse for what Asham did after the fact.”
TSN’s Aaron Ward: “I respect every guy that does that job, but that’s bush league. You know what, your statement ends with a guy that’s lying on the ice. It ends there. The guy engaged accordingly; you fought him, you did it the right way. It ends, it’s over. You don’t need to make those motions. We all saw what you did. It’s over. Have respect for your opponent.”
McKenzie: “I agree with all that...and I’m not making excuses for what he did, because everyone in hockey will criticize Asham and rightfully so. But if you’re gonna have guys that do that job for a living, you can’t expect them a millisecond afterward to flip the switch off and not have the adrenaline going.”