Nov 20, 2021; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Arizona Coyotes center Jay Beagle (83) against the Detroit Red Wings at Gila River Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

As a player in the NHL, Tyson Nash was an agitator who played a highly physical style. As a broadcaster for the Arizona Coyotes, he’s not only fine with dirty play but actually advocates it.

The Coyotes were soundly defeated by the Anaheim Ducks on Friday, losing 5-0. In the final minutes of that game, Arizona’s Jay Beagle cross-checked Anaheim’s Trevor Zegras at the end of a play then got into a fight with Troy Terry. It was a dirty play from Beagle, something Nash gleefully defended.

This isn’t the first time that Nash has been down this road. In 2012, while in a playoff series against the Chicago Blackhawks, Coyotes winger Raffi Torres knocked Chicago’s Marian Hossa out for the series with a hit in Game 3. Torres was not penalized for the hit but was later suspended for 25 (later reduced to 21 games). Nash (per Jesse Rogers, ESPN) defended the hit, saying it was “as clean as you’re going to get.”

But there’s a critical difference here. While bad, that hit came in the middle of a play that was fast-moving. Hossa didn’t have the puck at the time of the hit but he did a second before. Torres did leave his feet to make the hit but Nash didn’t see that in the moment. It was a dirty play, yes. But even for a player like Torres, who had a history of making dirty hits, you can understand how Nash would defend it.

That’s not the case here.

Beagle’s hit on Zegras happened at the end of a play. Yes, he was skating towards Zegras before the whistle but Zegras’ back was constantly turned to Beagle, who was not skating especially fast. There’s no way to argue that the hit was in the normal flow of a game.

And even if you disagree with that idea, Nash isn’t trying to say the hit was legal. He was borderline gleeful about the hit and subsequent fight and had no problem defending it. Why? Because the Coyotes were being embarrassed in the game. Because their opponents are “skilling it up.” Isn’t that what NHL players are supposed to do? Isn’t that what fans pay for, to see the best players in the world “skill it up?”

Furthermore, it’s one thing to be in Beagle’s position. He’s on the ice in the heat of a game. Emotions can run high in that setting. In the broadcast booth? not so much. Nash should have a clear enough head to denounce — or at least not encourage — that kind of play.

Hockey is a physical enough game. Dirty play doesn’t help anything and it certainly doesn’t help to have that kind of play defended.

[Nolan Bianchi]

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