'Hossa's Revenge' Shows Us How Far Hockey Has To Go
Bloodthirsty fans will be out in full force tonight as the Hawks square off against a Phoenix team featuring Raffi Torres for the first time since his infamous hit on Marian Hossa in last season's Stanley Cup playoffs. The NHL has taken a tough stance on hits to the head and handed out heavy suspensions against Torres and others. (Torres served a 21-game suspension for the Hossa hit alone.) But the second a guilty player takes the ice once again, a group of diehard fans are calling for his head through fights and dirty hits. Granted this group is a vocal minority, but they're a group that watches on a regular basis and spends money on tickets and merchandise, and the NHL knows it.
Hockey culture has long glorified fighting and payback hits as a way to keep the peace. In the fighting heyday of the 70's and 80's goons like Dave Schultz and Bob Probert enjoyed cult-like popularity and were heralded as protectors of the stars. However, as we know more and more about concussions, CTE and the toll they take on athletes, the eye-for-an-eye mentality should be considered archaic, in the same way as playing without helmets.
Look no further than Marian Hossa's recovery as why revenge as entertainment is nothing to be proud of. Lying half conscious in a pitch-black room for days is something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. Not to mention the thought process that still exists saying fighting doesn't cause concussions. The gut-wrenching New York Times piece on Derek Boogaard should have put an end to that.
But the NHL has been riding the fence as of late, taking a tough stance on hits to the head while still allowing games to descend into playground brawls. During last season's playoffs the matchup between the Penguins and Flyers featured Sidney Crosby, arguably the league's most exciting player, fighting and playing like a goon. The same guy that missed a majority of the last two seasons recovering from concussions.
I have no interest in watching low-skill goons like Raffi Torres skate around the ice taking people's heads off in the same way I don't enjoy John Scot or Brandon Bollig beating the pulp out of someone. These players don't help their team and just satisfy a portion of the fan base that are living in the past. Hitting will always have a place in hockey, but dirty hits, head shots and brawls shouldn't be accepted in the game. Right now we'll have to settle for two out of three