Beagle vs. Terry – Suspension Worthy?

It is a 5-0 game with around five minutes remaining. Your team is down and you see a rookie poke at your goalie when the whistle is blown. What do you do? This situation occurred in a game between the Anaheim Ducks and the Arizona Coyotes on Friday April 1, and no it was not an April Fool’s Day joke.[1] In response to Ducks forward Trevor Zegras poking the goalie at the whistle, Coyotes forward Jay Beagle cross-checked him in the back. Beagle was then confronted by both Cam Fowler, whom he shoved away, and Troy Terry, whom he proceeded to fight, ultimately ending with Terry bloody on the ice.[2] Most were disgusted with the fact that it appeared Beagle did not let up once Terry was on the ground. This scene drew comments from across the hockey world and lead to wide-spread controversy as to whether Beagle should be suspended. 

One major area of criticism following this event was directed at Coyotes broadcaster Tyson Nash. Nash, a former NHL player, stated during the broadcast, “[t]hat’s the problem with these young players. You wanna embarrass guys? You wanna skill it up? You better be prepared to get punched in the mouth.” These comments lead to many within the league calling out Nash stating that he not only defended the dirty play, but actually advocated for it.[3]

In response to the criticism surrounding his comments, Nash sat down with Coyotes reporter Craig Morgan to clarify his comments.[4] Nash stated he should have used the term “hot dogging” instead of “skill it up,” and further stated he did not like the way the Ducks players smiled and smirked after scoring goals. According to Nash, “if you are going to do that, you have to be prepared for what comes afterward.” Morgan also asked Nash if Beagle should have let up on Terry once he fell to the ice, to which Nash responded, “[n]o, not at all.” Clearly, these comments did not make Nash look any better from the normal hockey fan’s point of view, and many have advocated for him to be fired or at least suspended for these comments.

Jay Beagle was also criticized following this incident. Many argued that Beagle should be suspended for this incident. However, unlike Nash, there were also a large portion of people who thought this was not a suspension-worthy incident. Trevor Zegras argued for Beagle to be suspended. When asked about the incident following the game, Zegras stated, “I take a shot, he comes into help me. I get that (Beagle) he’s going to punch him maybe once, but the fact that he’s down and he’s not engaged in a fight, and you’re gonna hit him three more times? I think it’s embarrassing, I think he should be embarrassed.”[5] Zegras further stated “I think the league should step in here and do something about it,” and “[i]t’s humiliating and I think he should be f****** punished.”[6] In addition to Zegras, Ducks coach Dallas Eakins also weighed in on the situation. He said, “[h]e’s a coward, [i]t was cowardly. [Terry] was cut wide open and basically defenseless. Not a good sight.”[7]

Coyotes forward Michael Carcone spoke about Beagle following the game, and stated that Beagle was a great teammate, great guy, and a great leader. Along with teammates, many analysts and former NHL players believed Beagle should not be suspended. They alluded to the idea that this type of action has occurred within the game since it began, and while Beagle should probably have let up when Terry was on the ground, the conduct did not rise to the level of suspension worthy. This topic was talked about extensively on a hockey podcast called “Spittin Chiclets,” where two former NHL players stated Beagle should not be suspended.[8]

Ultimately, the NHL did not decide to discipline Beagle in connection with the incident, while his teammate Nick Richie was suspended one game for slashing Ducks defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.[9] According to the NHL, Beagle’s conduct did not rise to the level necessary for supplemental discipline under the CBA.

Pursuant to Article 18.2, the NHL looks at several factors when determining if a player should be disciplined for on-ice conduct including:

  1. The type of conduct involved: conduct in violation of League Playing Rules, and whether the conduct is intentional or reckless, and involves the use of excessive and unnecessary force. Players are responsible for the consequences of their actions. 
  2. Injury to the opposing Player(s) involved in the incident. 
  3. The status of the offender and, specifically, whether the Player has a history of being subject to Supplementary Discipline for On-Ice Conduct. Players who repeatedly violate League Playing Rules will be more severely punished for each new violation. 
  4. The situation of the game in which the incident occurred, for example: late in the game, lopsided score, prior events in the game. 
  5. Such other factors as may be appropriate in the circumstances.[10]

Based on these factors it may seem a bit odd Beagle was not disciplined. The fight occurred late in the game, with a lopsided score, and he appeared to beat on a defenseless player who was on the ground. Further, the conduct appeared to be intentional, as it appeared that Beagle was taking out his frustration from the game on Terry. After the fight, Terry left the game with head injuries and was considered day-to-day with facial injuries.[11] He also missed the Saturday, April 2, game against Edmonton as a result of these injuries. Given the weighing of these factors it seems odd that Beagle was not suspended. 

Perhaps it is because fighting is technically not illegal conduct. While many have advocated for its removal from the game, and the trend is of fights becoming less common, fighting is still technically a part of the game, and likely always will be. Because fighting is a part of hockey, and Beagle engaged in a fight, there was no need to suspend him? What about him continuing to hit Terry when he was on the ice, is that still part of the “fight”? An important question in this scenario is when the fight started and ended. It will be interesting to see how the league handles fighting given the strong opposition against it. What do you think? Should Beagle have been suspended for his conduct during the game against the Coyotes?

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