The Washington Capitals weren’t upset when noted Pittsburgh Penguins tough guy Arron Asham took on the less pugistically inclined Jay Beagle in a fight during the third period of Thursday night’s game. The Capitals didn’t get mad when Asham landed a knockout blow on Beagle’s cheek, prompting Beagle’s knees to buckle and his body to drop to the ice.
They did get fired up, however, when Asham — while Beagle lay injured on the ice — made mocking gestures not unlike a professional wrestler might, signaling “lights out” and “go to sleep.”
While the Capitals may not spend much more time dwelling on the incident, the bout again raised scrutiny on fighting’s place in the NHL and the league’s concerns with head injuries.
Coach Bruce Boudreau said Friday that Beagle apparently avoided severe injury. The 25-year-old Calgary native is not exhibiting any concussion symptoms but has a “fat lip” from when his visor cut his mouth when he hit the ice.
“I thought initially like everybody else that it would have been” a concussion, Boudreau said. “But he doesn’t have any of the symptoms as of now.”
The league is in the midst of a highly-publicized crusade to remove dangerous hits to the head — hopefully lessening the numbers of concussions at the same time — by issuing lengthy suspensions and fines for those who target opponents above the shoulders. But many have noted that while officials are cracking down on checks that directly target the head during the course of play, players who pummel each other in the face deal with little or no repercussions.
Further muddying the situation: According to Boudreau, Beagle wanted to come back into Thursday’s game after the fight, but an NHL policy implemented late last season mandates that any player showing possible concussion symptoms must leave the ice and go to a quiet room.
In discussing Beagle’s fracas, Brooks Laich voiced a strong opinion on that guideline, stating that the league is overstepping its control.
“I really don’t care about that awareness [stuff] to be honest; I’m sick of hearing all this talk about concussions and the quiet room,” said Laich, who is Washington’s player association representative. “We accept that there’s going to be dangers when we play this game, and you know that every night you get dressed, sometimes it feels like we’re being babysat a little too much. We’re grown men, we should have a little say in what we want to do.”
Asham afterward apologized to the Capitals for his gestures, calling them unnecessary and “classless.” But he also later told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that Beagle instigated the fight and then labeled Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin a hypocrite for calling him disrespectful. Beagle has not spoken with reporters since the fight.
“My understanding is he asked Jay in the way the fights are started, Jay obliged and they scrapped,” said Matt Hendricks, who led the Capitals in fighting majors last season. “I give [Asham] credit for apologizing and realizing what he did [after] was wrong. Stuff happens in the heat of battle, but with regard to what happened to Jay [injuries], that’s happened to about everybody that fights.”
Capitals note: Boudreau said he expects goalie Michal Neuvirth, who missed the past three days because of a lower-body injury, to practice Saturday. Braden Holtby was reassigned to Hershey of the American Hockey League and is expected to play for the Bears on Saturday.