NHL League Justice
With regards to the Raffi Torres hit on Marion Hossa, I think the hit was a bit late, and due to Torres’ diminutive stature and the fact that just about all players are forced to leave their feet when delivering an open ice body check, Torres slightly miscalculated and caught Hossa on the chin.
Honestly, I suspect Hossa is ok and just had the wind knocked out of him – I would be surprised if he was concussed.
Torres is a tough nut, and this will probably be another case of the crime not fitting the punishment – simply because a stretcher was involved.
Leaving your feet to deliver a body check is something I would like clarified, the league knows and recognizes that momentum and a player having to elevate his posture to deliver the force of a body check inevitably causes “lift” – we know this. Fans, on the other hand, have been trained to look at ‘leaving your feet’ as an automatic basis for suspension – it’s not. The league should clarify this and make it known.
You can’t run a league with case-by-case justice. We all should’ve stood up and said something when it became the way the league was to operate – you can’t base player suspensions and fines on whether or not the victim was or wasn’t severely injured or if the aggressor is or isn’t a star player. You can’t do that. You either have rules, or you don’t. You don’t get to apply them in a willy-nilly fashion where prejudice and malice take a backseat to how many points the victim has or how much of a serial offender the aggressor is.
For me, this is the same malevolence the league has shown to diving – and I have always disagreed with the way diving is handled. Generally, 9 times out of 10, when there’s a penalty for diving, you’ll also see a corresponding penalty for whatever the offense was – tripping, hooking, slashing – you name it. Completely and utterly counter productive. Either it was a slash, or it wasn’t – either it was a dive, or it wasn’t – you can’t have it both ways.
The NHL has, for too long, wanted to have it’s cake and eat it too.
The NHL has varying rules that depend on the salability of the game and it’s players, this creates a market where you might as well go out and go for it and hopefully the other guy doesn’t get hurt too badly. That’s how you keep your job, that’s how Raffi Torres has kept his job. It’s not his fault, he’s just doing what the league has allowed and essentially justified. Torres sometimes falls over that line, sometimes he doesn’t.
The problem with case-by-case justice is essentially this, now think about this, and think hard – if Marion Hossa absorbs that check and quickly rises to his feet, are we even having this discussion?
See? We’re all in the same headspace now where we calculate misdeeds based on how hurt the victim is. That’s not how you apply rules. Raffi Torres, if he’s to suspended at all, should be suspended regardless of whether or not Hossa requires a stretcher.
If I break into your house, but I don’t damage or steal anything – should I be punished? The NHL doesn’t think so.
Leave your feet beyond reasonable lift and momentum needed to deliver force for a body check – 5 games. And if that check connects with an opposing players head? 10 games. Full stop. No question about how hurt the other player is, no question about how much star power the victim or aggressor has – just simply apply the rules regardless of all other factors and this problem is solved. Implement a three strikes and you’re out policy. Three suspensions in one season? Sorry, you’re done for the year. No appeals. No questions. You’re done.
That won’t happen though, because when you get a group of billionaires together (the owners) negotiating with millionaires (the players) – all that’s really worried about is protecting wealth. And that will continue.
This is why I talk a lot about being behind the trends in the game, and if you’ve recognized them – you’re already behind them. While a lot of the league thought the game was moving towards, smaller, shifty, talented, skillful players who feast on powerplays and flourish in a non-obstruction based game – the Bruins showed up and reminded everyone what it actually takes to win the Stanley Cup in 2011. Heart, determination, toughness, grit, skill, talent. The rest of the league has now reacted, some quicker (L.A., Rangers, Ottawa) than others (Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver).
That mental headspace of how you have to play to win (Bruins in 2011), combined with the NHL’s need to hand out case-by-case justice has created this perfect storm.