The National Hockey League playoffs started on April 11th, and the play so far has been highlighted not by amazing breakaways and power plays, but by nasty fights and dirty hits.
Hockey has always been known for its high intensity action and heated tempers that lead to fights on the ice, but a lot of the hits and scrums that have been happening on the ice this year have made the league look like a joke.
No wonder NBC is the only network brave enough to air these games, and 95% of them are aired on their cable only NBC sports network (formerly Versus).
All the action hit a low point Tuesday night when Phoenix Coyotes left wing Raffi Torres collided with Chicago Blackhawk’s veteran right winger Marion Hossa with a rising shoulder to the chin that sent the five time all-star to the hospital on a stretcher. The hit was late and Torres, a known goon in the NHL, jumped off the ice to force extra impact causing Hossa to instantly collapse. Somehow, all four of the refs on the ice missed this huge hit and Torres was not even handed a penalty in-game.
Torres is now facing an indefinite suspension until he has a hearing in person on Friday causing him to miss at the least Thursday night’s game 4 in the series. This is nothing new for Torres, who is considered a repeat offender after receiving a two-game suspension for a similar hit earlier in January, and in the end it will most likely not change his character or actions on the ice.
This is only one instance of many that have occurred in the first week of a long two-month playoff season. In the first game of the Nashville-Detroit series, Shea Weber, Predator’s captain, smashed Henri Zetterberg’s head into the glass with five seconds left in the game that the Predators were winning 3-2. This total loss of composure was uncalled for, especially for the guy wearing the hard-earned “C” on his chest. Weber was only handed a two minute minor for roughing and a $2500 fine but no suspension.
Almost nothing compares to the circus that happened on Sunday though. The Pittsburgh Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers faced off in a game that looked more like a WWE brawl than a hockey game. Three players were ejected in the first period alone, including top defensemen for both teams Kris Letang of the Penguins and Kimmo Timonen of the Flyers.
Arron Asham of the Penguins took the cake in the second period when Brayden Schenn, Flyers forward, completed a crushing but legal, hit on Penguins defenseman Paul Martin. In reaction, Asham delivered a brutal cross check to Schenn’s neck that dropped him to the ice where Asham followed up with a right hook to the face. He was immediately ejected followed by a four-game suspension.
I am glad that the NHL is bringing the hammer down on these players to set an example of what will hopefully keep happening in the future. The fast pace of the game is a lot of fun to watch, but it’s frustrating to see all these players hitting with the intent to injure. All these cheap shots do is add fuel to the fire that will eventually combust, leading to dangerous hits like the one on Hossa.