Thanks be to Torres for giving us our hockey back

Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa is hit by Coyotes forward Raffi Torres during Game 3 of their NHL...

Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa is hit by Coyotes forward Raffi Torres during Game 3 of their NHL Western Conference quarterfinal series at the United Center in Chicago, Ill., April 17, 2012. (JIM YOUNG/Reuters)

ERIC FRANCIS

, Last Updated: 2:33 AM ET

CALGARY - Thank you, Raffi Torres.

Words no hockey fan has ever uttered.

Fact is, the serial brain-basher can now actually lay claim to having a positive impact on the game, albeit unintentionally.

Ever since Torres launched himself into Marian Hossa’s cranium three weeks ago, the NHL playoffs have returned to being about the game.

The intensity is still at a brilliant high, as is the skill, entertainment value and the storylines. Gone — for the most part — are those nasty head-shots no one likes.

Things just got a little too heated there until Torres struck again, causing players to take it down a notch and restore some sanity to the game.

Until Monday, when Claude Giroux’s hissy-fit earned him a suspension and the Phoenix Coyotes situation was addressed by Gary Bettman, the hockey world went three weeks talking about nothing but the beauty of the game and these playoffs.

No CBA talk, no relocation rumours and no horrible head-shots.

Thanks, Raffi.

Now for more notes, quotes and anecdotes from a sports scribe mourning the loss of a true pioneer, Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys.

AROUND THE HORN

Like most people, Dave Dickenson was shocked by news of Junior Seau’s apparent suicide. Dickenson was a teammate of Seau’s in San Diego for two years and said the fun-loving linebacker seemed to have everything going for him. “Junior was the first teammate to say ‘hi’ to me when I signed,” said Dickenson, whose status as third-string quarterback didn’t prompt Seau to “big-time” Dickenson. “Nobody could bring a group of guys together more than Junior. Always a man who talked about legacy, which proved ironic as now I’m not sure how he will be remembered. He always was the one who lifted guys up — too bad he didn’t allow others to help him. I was shocked and dumbfounded that Junior decided to make such an irrational decision. He must have been in a lot of pain.” … Fascinating bit of politics at play last week when the Calgary Flames issued a news release announcing Olli Jokinen had successful abdominal surgery. The injury was first reported in this space April 6 when his agent, Ian Pulver, helped explain Jokinen’s well-documented struggles down the stretch by way of a mid-body injury. A source inside the club confirmed then that Jokinen had an MRI revealing the abdominal strain but said it was an excuse as guys were playing through much worse that time of year. Either way, now the club is looking to help bolster Jokinen’s image by acknowledging his injury in an attempt to either a) get the local fans onside in case they re-sign the 33-year-old free agent; or b) ensure the stock of the club’s top centre on the open market isn’t hampered by questions about his late-season disappearance. It was the right thing for the club to do. Credit to Jokinen as he previously refused to comment on it or use it as a crutch.

PARTING GIFTS

Full marks to the Flames for creatively going about trying to affect change by signing KHL sniper Roman Cervenka last week. While there has been confusion and concern by some over the US$3.775 million cap hit he comes with, the 26-year-old centre is a low-risk signing with a big potential upside. The Calgary Sun has obtained his contract information and his $832,500 base salary also comes with a $92,500 signing bonus on a two-way deal that would see him get $70,000 in the minors (where the cap-hit would be buried). His A bonuses could amount to $850,000 as he gets $212,500 for each below to a maximum of four: Top six icetime on team (minimum 42 games), scores 20 goals, 60 points, top three forwards plus/minus, 35 assists, points per game of .73, voted NHL all-rookie team, all-star game appearance, MVP of all-star game. His B bonus would earn him $2 million maximum for any one of: Wins Hart, Richard, Selke or Conn Smythe Trophy, end-of-season first or second all-star team, top 10 NHL forwards in goals, assists, points or powerplay goals. If he is a total bust, he can be sent to the AHL or KHL without penalty, and if he does take the league by storm, Flames fans should have no problem seeing him paid accordingly.

eric.francis@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @ericfrancis


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