April 18, 2012
Teams split over Torres' cheap shot on Hossa
By ROB LONGLEY, QMI AGENCY
CHICAGO - As a 10-year NHL veteran, Blackhawks assistant captain Patrick Sharp likes to school his younger teammates on life in the big leagues.
The subtleties of the game, dealing with life on the road, the pressure of the playoff are all presumably on the curriculum.
As is, one would assume, the perils of being on the ice against a player like Phoenix Coyotes' thug, Raffi Torres.
"You know it's coming," Sharp said of the dangers that lurk in a game where Torres is involved. "You try to warn your linemates when they are on the ice. (Torres) has a history of targeting guys' heads and having questionable hits.
"I don't think it's too hard to lose respect for a player like that. When the same guy keeps popping up again and again, you know something is going on."
What is going on has exploded into the latest three-alarm blaze in these playoffs, one that led the NHL to suspend Torres indefinitely pending a hearing at the league's New York offices on Friday.
The latest and loudest cheap shot heard 'round the hockey world took place at the United Center Tuesday when Torres levelled Chicago forward Marian Hossa in open ice, with the puck barely in the same area code. He punctuated the hit by jumping into Hossa.
Almost incredibly, there was no penalty called on the play, adding another question mark to the violence that is dominating these playoffs and, most specifically, the NHL's reaction to it.
In Torres, NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan may have his most notorious case of the playoffs, one that is expected to result in a multi-game suspension that could dwarf any of the previous sentences handed out over the past week.
Depending on what side of the hall you were on in the United Center Wednesday afternoon, you would have thought the hot topic was about completely different sports.
The Blackhawks said Torres should be smacked hard for continually dishing out the type of hit the league is trying to chase from the game.
The Coyotes, as you might expect, talked about hockey being a fierce, physical sport that sometimes blurs the lines between fair and foul.
"You would think Raffi murdered a bus load of children the way he's portrayed here in Chicago," Coyotes general manager Don Maloney told the Arizona Republic.
While there has no doubt been an overreaction -- Coyotes coach Dave Tippett targeted the Chicago media for "protecting their own team"-- comparing hockey today to the old-school game doesn't cut it.
The league, under the directive of its general managers, has vowed to rid the game of dangerous, predatory hits of which repeat offender Torres' latest appears to be textbook.
For his part, Torres denied that he was hitting to hurt and that it was merely a hockey play, a suggestion that deeply offended Blackhawks players, who want more than a pound of flesh for their fallen star. Hossa, who was released from hospital Tuesday night, has been ruled out of Game 4 Thursday.
"Obviously, that's the way he thinks," 'Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said of Torres. "I said it before last year when he was with Vancouver (and hit Blackhawk Brent Seabrook) that he probably thought that was a hockey play, too.
"There's no remorse. A guy's getting carried off on a stretcher and he probably doesn't feel bad about it all. That's not hockey to me."
There may have been a time that it was a hockey play, one expected especially during the heat of a playoff battle.
Former NHL player and referee Paul Stewart told Sun Media in an interview Wednesday that he's seen "much worse, in these playoffs alone." Stewart says modern technology -- television cameras -- is making the collisions look much worse than they actually are.
Tippett, another old-school player and coach, agrees, claiming that unless you've played the game, you can't appreciate the split-second reaction on the ice.
"I've seen a lot of other hits like it around the league," Tippett said. "The thing about TV is, you can slow it down, you can click it and click it and click it.
"When you are out there on the ice, it's a fast game. I don't think there was any malicious intent on Raffi's part.
"It's a hard game. It can be brutal at times, but it's what makes our game great."
That may be true. Nobody wants to see hitting eliminated from the game and the intense, physical battles of a lengthy playoff series are what make watching the game this time of year so delicious.
But nobody wants to see players fitted for a neck brace and wheeled off on a stretcher, either.
There were suggestions Wednesday that the rash of incidents could hurt advertising revenue in the U.S., where the playoffs are getting more attention than in past years but for too many of the wrong reasons.
"It's just getting out of control," Blackhawks forward David Bolland said. "Things are getting to be a joke around here. We'll see what happens. It's in the hands of Shanahan, now."
Bloody hands, unfortunately.
Raffi Rap Sheet
Phoenix Coyotes forward Raffi Torres has a history of getting on the wrong side of the NHL law. Here's a look at some of his higher-profile transgressions.
April 5, 2011
Torres, then with the Vancouver Canucks, was given a four-game suspension for a low-blow shot to the head of then-Edmonton Oilers rookie Jordan Eberle.
April 26, 2011
In his first game back from suspension, Torres clocked Chicago defenceman Brent Seabrook with a shot to the head. It being a playoff contest, Torres received a two-minute interference penalty and no supplemental discipline.
December 29, 2011
Reached out with his shoulder and forearm to clip the head of Colorado's Jan Hejda. Was fined $2,500 for a shot that caught Hejda on the jaw.
Dec. 31, 2011
After another head shot, this time to Minnesota Wild defenceman Nate Prosser, Torres was issued a two-game suspension. Much like the Hossa hit, it was a leaping hit with both skates off the ice. Came two days after he clipped Hejda.
April 17, 2012
In a loud and high-speed collission in front of the Blackhawks bench, Torres left his feet to level Marian Hossa with a flying forearm to the head. The puck was nowhere in the area. On Wednesday, the league spended Torres indefinitely.