The goalie fight in the NHL might be officially a thing of the past.
On Wednesday night in Pittsburgh with the Penguins beating the Canadiens 5-1 late in the third period, a skirmish broke out in front of Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. There was the usual pushing and shoving while Fleury backed away, but not too far. He was still around.
Feeling alone, Canadiens goalie Peter Budaj left his crease and caught Fleury's attention where Fleury gave an approving gesture. That's it, a goalie fight was on.
And then it wasn't. As soon as Fleury started to head toward center ice the referee skated right in between he and the blue line to put a kibosh on the preceedings. Budaj, meanwhile, was impeded by a linesman and the peace was kept.
You can thank Ray Emery for the way he attacked Braden Holtby earlier this season in Philadelphia because without that happening, we had ourselves the rare goalie fight in Pittsburgh. But since that fight was more like an assault and the league didn't like it, Gary Bettman said the league was going to look at the rules about goalie fights. Apparently the temporary solution was just to stop it before it happens.
Now look, as long as fighting is going to be in the game and as long as the two goaltenders are clearly both interested in a battle, there is no reason that they shouldn't be allowed to do just that as if they were a pair of skaters. It was good thinking on the NHL's part to try and protect goalies who don't want to fight as Holtby didn't but when two goaltenders are clearly as willing to fight as Fleury and Budaj were they should be allowed to go for a spin. Either fighting is in the game or it's not and that should extend to goaltenders as well when they're willing combatants.
The vast majority of fans still like fighting in hockey, just look at the reactions in the crowd when one takes place. The goalie fight is even more beloved and is a rare delicacy. It's now on the endangered list in the NHL.