Update: Gary Bettman proved in an interview with David Haugh, he doesn't recognize that Perception is Reality. "A lot of it is perception and misperception," Bettman said. "The game is physical, the game is emotional. These games are hard-fought." Bettman was in attendance for the game and apparently can't see a repeat offender taking out the Hawks leading scorer with a cheap illegal hit proves that what people perceive about Bettman, being an empty suit who's providing inconsistent leadership, are destroying the NHL.In last night's Chicago Blackhawks - Phoenix Coyotes Hockey game, Raffi Torres of Phoenix laid a deliberately malicious hit to the head of Marian Hossa, which resulted in Hossa being taken off the ice on a stretcher and to a nearby Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
Even in real time, the hit was obviously "dirty". Torres, launched himself at Hossa (his skates left the ice), well after Hossa had passed the puck, lead with his shoulder/arm, aimed at Hossa's chin/jawline and by-passed the Blackhawks player actually with the puck. The hit was so violent the nearby NHL linesman flinched away as it was delivered.
The story not only lead in Chicago, but dominated NHL.com, ESPN, Yahoo Sports, SB Nation and produced a huge reaction on Twitter and on-line editorials.
The NHL is in big trouble. The League has declared it wants to crack down on illegal hits and wants to aid in player safety. But, there is a perceived unfairness in the way the NHL and head disciplinarian of the Department of Player Safety Brendan Shanahan has reviewed and punished hits or other gross misconduct in games. Please read this article from Globe and Mail about the Fallout the Perception of different standards of punishment certain players receive is having upon fans.
Earlier in the day, Shanahan gave Chicago Blackhawk player Adam Shaw a 3-game suspension for a hit on Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith. However, in the leagues official ruling, Brendan Shanahan makes clear that Shaw has no history of illegal hits and the hit itself was not made with intent. The Phoenix Coyotes gamed the league by holding Smith out of practice and not indicating if he would start until the 3-game suspension ruling was delivered.
Raffi Torres' hit was clearly made with intent and resulted in a serious injury to Hossa, most likely one which will keep him out of the rest of the playoffs. Raffi Torres is also a repeat offender and a year ago took out a Chicago Blackhawks player in a Playoff series.
But, even Blackhawks players indicated they have no idea if Shanahan is going to issue a properly severe suspension for this hit and of course, Torres and his coach demurred calling it a "Hockey play".
Putting aside the conspiracy theories that the NHL wants the Phoenix Coyotes to advance in the playoffs to increase their sale price, the league is currently in receivership of the Franchise, the NHL has a serious problem. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman mismanagement of the league, especially the mid-1990's off-handed disrespect towards the rabid Canadian fan base by relocating multiple Canadian Teams and Northern US teams, to Carolina, Phoenix, Dallas, and Florida (x2), were there exists no natural fan base, the recent economic stagnation have crippled the NHL's marketability.
But, more importantly no one thinks the League is going to handle the Torres hit properly*. And once the idea sets in that a League or powerful individuals in the League are capricious or actively biased that League is in serious trouble of crumbling and going the way of the ABA or the USFL.
How long should Torres be suspended? Personally, I think if the league wants to really crack down on "head-hunting" and illegal hits it needs to suspend players for as many games as missed by the injured player and with the expected minimum of double digits on the first offense and increase fines from the current Collectively bargained amount of $2,500.
But, even so what we see in the Blackhawks-Coyotes series could be a harbinger of the downfall of a League which Greed and bad management and sometimes blatant disregard for the fan base hath brought about.
Fortunately, for myself, besides band-wagoning onto the Blackhawks 2010 Stanley Cup Winning Team my hockey fandom has never taken over my senses. So, when I simply refuse to watch hockey ever again I'll not feel deprived of anything worthwhile.
*- Travis Hughes of SB Nation is reporting:
Phoenix Coyotes forward Raffi Torres has been suspended indefinitely pending an NHL hearing on Friday for his vicious hit on Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa during Tuesday night's Western Conference Quarterfinal Game 3. Torres will travel to the NHL's office in Manhattan for the in-person hearing, which was originally scheduled for Wednesday but delayed at the request of the NHL Players Association.