A hard-fought win turned into a knock-out, drag-out fight on the ice Monday night.
At their home arena, the Washington Capitals managed to best the Anaheim Ducks, but the hockey team’s win was slightly overshadowed by a calamitous brawl that resulted in an ejection for their right-winger.
When one of his teammates initiated a fight after a legal push in the second period, Garnet Hathaway stepped in to take on multiple Duck athletes. The scuffle behind the net mounted as refs struggled to separate the combatants.
As Hathaway was being held back, Erik Gudbranson of the Ducks’ defense appeared to grab Hathaway, connecting a punch to his opponent that was reciprocated with a projectile of spit that landed on Gudbranson.
After the match, Hathaway told reporters he regretted the “emotional” response, saying it was out of character.
“I feel like there was a couple sucker punches thrown and I got one there quick, and then I reacted a little emotionally and, you know, unfortunately spit came out of my mouth after I got sucker punched and it went on to him,” he said.
He added: “… It has no place. It was an emotional play by me. You know, you don’t plan any of that stuff in your head and it was a quick reaction and unfortunately the wrong one for me after a sucker punch.”
According to the National Hockey League’s policies, spitting results in a player being “… automatically suspended from further competition until the Commissioner has ruled on the issue.” Following an initial review of the fight, refs lodged a match penalty on Hathaway and ejected him, while Gudbranson received a 10-minute misconduct and roughing penalty.
Hathaway’s penalty will require an automatic review from the NHL’s Department of Player Safety or Hockey Operations Department, according to the Washington Post, and spitting has resulted in suspensions in the past.
By the way, here's the reason for the match penalty for Garnet Hathaway. pic.twitter.com/e3W97zFSKV— Anaheim Ducks (@AnaheimDucks) November 19, 2019
“That’s about as low as you can dig a pit, really,” Gudbranson said about the spitting after the match. “It’s a bad thing to do. It’s just something you don’t do in our game. And he did it.”
Capitals head coach Todd Reirden defended Hathaway, calling him a “stand-up,” “first-class guy” who made a poor decision in the heat of the moment.
“You know, he was getting punched by a couple different guys at once and lost control of his emotion and did something that there’s no place for in the league,” he said in a press conference afterward. “That’s disappointing and he feels terrible about it.”
The coach added: “He’s not happy about it. … He made a mistake.”