When the National Hockey League announced the suspension for Raffi Torres’ hit on Marian Hossa, some people may have been surprised by the length of the suspension. Was 25 games too many for that hit? Was it enough? Will it send enough of a message to Raffi Torres and the entire National Hockey League about that type of hit? Only time will tell but this isn’t the first time a lengthy suspension has been handed down by the Department of Player Safety and SR Vice President Brendan Shanahan.
Matt Cooke came to this same crossroads in his NHL career last season when he gave an elbow to Ryan McDonagh’s head and was suspended for the rest of the regular season (10 games) and the 1st round of the playoffs. The National Hockey League and the Department of Player Safety made an example out of Matt Cooke with that suspension to show the rest of the league that these deliberate hits weren’t going to be tolerated. In essence, they were challenging Matt Cooke to change the way he played hockey in the NHL.
After the suspension was announced, Mr. Cooke sounded sincere when he said, “I realize and understand, more so now than ever, that I need to change,” and even though few thought he could change, he knew he had to figure out a way to change the way he plays or his career might be over.
Raffi Torres basically committed 3 penalties when he hit Marian Hossa in Game 3 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals between the Phoenix Coyotes and the Chicago Blackhawks, even though nothing was called! It was interference, charging & an illegal check to the head. Mr. Torres is no stranger to these types of hits as he’s been suspended many times in his NHL career. At some point, the players that keep making hits like this have to figure out they have to change how they play the game.
The National Hockey League and Brendan Shanahan had to come down hard on Raffi Torres and use this hit as an example to the rest of the league. Some people will disagree and that’s fine. Players will disagree on the suspension as well. Everyone has a right to their opinion. Raffi Torres knew exactly what he was doing and he has been suspended for the same kind of hits before and hasn’t changed so he was sent a pretty hefty message, take 25 games to look at your game and change it or your career may be over because if he makes another hit like that in the future, who knows what the NHL will do.
There’s another thing about the suspension that most people might not realize. When the suspension was announced on April 21st, the Phoenix Coyotes had a possible 24 games left in the playoffs if they won the Stanley Cup and every series went to 7 games. They could’ve played three more games in round 1, seven games in round 2, seven games in the Conference Finals and seven games in the Stanley Cup Finals. They had already played Game 4 the night before and Torres was suspended indefinitely at that point. That game still counts as part of the suspension making it 25 possible games left in the playoffs for the Phoenix Coyotes.
Could it be that part of the reason for the 25 game suspension was to keep Raffi Torres from playing in the rest of the playoffs? Thanks to Justin Bourne of the Backhand Shelf blog at TheScore.com, we found out that players don’t get paid in the playoffs and Torres would lose $21,341.46 for every regular season game he misses due to the suspension. He will miss the entire preseason as well since we know he will have at least one regular season game on his suspension right now due to Phoenix winning their 1st round series in six games.
So the big question is, will this change Raffi Torres and his headhunting ways? One would think if Matt Cooke can do it, anyone can. It has to be very difficult to change the way you’ve played for your whole career. Every player has had to tweak their play to adapt to the new rules that have come in the last few seasons but tweaking is a lot different than changing the way you play. Matt Cooke might be a good person for Raffi Torres to add to his contact list because he’s probably going to need all the help he can get to change into a different player.
The National Hockey League can’t afford to be losing any players to injury let alone the best players in the league to stupid hits that don’t need to be made. The blow ‘em up hits are the the hits they need to get rid of! Most fans enjoy good physical play in the game but it needs to be done the right way. Yes, a big hit can change the momentum of a game but it shouldn’t change a player’s life.
Getting the blow ‘em up hits out of the game would also have a trickle down effect on the rest of hockey. The less kids see of these hits, the less they will want to do them in their own games. Everyone talks about changing the culture of hockey and how it can be done. Things can be done at all levels of hockey to improve safety in the game.
Every player needs to learn how to throw a check, take a check, avoid a check and to always be aware of their surroundings when they are on the ice. “Keep your head on a swivel” is the popular saying for playing hockey and maybe it’s become an afterthought in today’s game for some reason. Here’s a quote from hockey legend Reed Larson on how the game used to be played:
“But the hitting, some guys just are not ready for it (at a younger age…squirts, peewees, bantams). They are cracking down on it, and they are trying to do the right thing, but these players aren’t learning how to fall, how to go into the boards, and how to check properly. I can’t believe how many guys I’ve seen come to the middle of the ice and make a pass and not pay any attention to what is around them. We never did that, we made a pass and then it was “who’s coming!?!” The job was only half done after the pass.”
I’m not sure how much Marian Hossa could’ve avoided the hit from Raffi Torres because it happened pretty fast but there’s definitely some injuries that could be avoided or at least lessened by players knowing who’s coming? Teammates talk all the time on offense and defense and on the bench. Do they ever give a “heads up” or a “man on” about an oncoming check?
The National Hockey League has a lot of work to do in the offseason. A new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) needs to be agreed upon with the Player’s Association (NHLPA) and I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s some more new rules on discipline of the big hits and illegal checks.
So…ClutterPuckers…what do you think? Was 25 games excessive? just right? not enough? What will happen with the “big hits” in the future?
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