NHL Playoffs: The hits just keep on coming

April 19, 2012

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No one expected to see Marian Hossa back on the ice Thursday night for Game 4 of the Blackhawks' playoff series against the Phoenix Coyotes after he left Game 3 strapped to a stretcher. There was, however, some initial uncertainty about whether the NHL would allow the guy who put him on a backboard, Raffi Torres, to lace up his skates. Many of those questions were answered Wednesday when the league suspended Torres indefinitely pending a hearing Friday.

This is not Torres’ first suspension--and it’s certainly not the first time he’s been accused of playing dirty. Last year, fresh off a four-game suspension for a head hit, Torres delivered a blow to Brent Seabrook’s temple--and Hawk fans haven’t forgotten it or the fact that it went unpunished.

 

The Hawks didn't forget it either.

“You try to warn your linemates and be aware when [Torres is] on the ice. He’s got a history of targeting guys’ heads and questionable hits. It makes it that much more frustrating to see it happen, but we’ve got to rally behind [Hossa] and move on,” said Hawks forward Patrick Sharp.

But the hit heard round the ice rink failed to catch the attention of the four officials on duty Tuesday night—and while no penalty was called, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville cried foul when it came to the night’s refereeing.

"It was a brutal hit," Quenneville said Tuesday. "I saw exactly what happened and it was right in front of me. All four guys missed it. It was hard. The refereeing tonight was a disgrace."

The feelings in Phoenix are decidedly different. In an interview with the Arizona Republic, Coyotes GM Don Maloney called Torres’ hit a mistake and an error in judgment. Though, he had more choice words when it came to the negative attention Torres is receiving.

“You would think Raffi murdered a busload of children the way he’s portrayed here in Chicago,” Maloney said.

So what's happening out there: Are referees seeing less—or are we seeing more violence?

Through the first seven days of playoffs, nine players were suspended. That’s more than double the total number of suspensions in the entire 2011 postseason. The league and its commissioner, Gary Bettman, has been criticized for being lax on rough play. Bettman got considerable heat for an interview with New York Times' reporter John Branch on the role of fighting in hockey and the recent death of enforcer Derek Boogaard.

On Thursday's Afternoon Shift, ESPN.com senior writer Lester Munson and WBEZ's regular sports contributor Cheryl Raye-Stout will sit down with WBEZ’s Jason Marck to talk about the uptick in violence.

And we want to know what you think too: has the game gotten too violent? Or are hard hits all a part of the game?

To join the conversation, call in today at 2:00 p.m., the number is 312-923-9239. Or jump in on the action at #AfternoonShift.