21 April 2011
I have seen 2 clear sides to the Raffi Torres hit on Brent Seabrook that knocked him out of tonight’s game.
Take 1: Raffi Torres targeted an unsuspecting player with a vicious blindside hit to the head
Take 2: Raffi Torres tried to use his physicality, an attribute that has helped him make a career playing hockey, to separate an opposing player from the puck, freeing up his teammate for a scoring opportunity.
Which side is right? Much to the NHL’s nightmare: both sides. But both sides are wrong too.
There’s no doubt: Raffi Torres wasn’t trying to injure Brent Seabrook, but he was trying to hit him, and hurt him. But hurt is different than injure. You don’t want to injure him to the point he doesn’t play, you want to hurt him so bad that he plays poorly. Raffi Torres was guilty of the latter, and that’s a perfectly acceptable move in a sport where physical intimidation is an essential ingredient. Torres also tried to separate Seabrook from the puck so his now uncovered teammate could go to the net for a scoring chance. Saying Torres was being dirty or targeting Seabrook is missing the point. Of course he was, and that’s part of hockey.
But side one is right too. Raffi Torres knew Seabrook wasn’t looking, and was hitting him as hard as he could. And he hit him high, which at the very least has an increased chance of hitting the head. I’m sorry, but the Keep your head ut this argument also devolves into a “Seabrook should keep his head up” argument, which is asinine. Hockey players will have to look down to get the puck at some point during the course of a game. Asking a player to keep his head up at all times is akin to asking a writer to never use spell check. Saying “Keep your head up” is an invalid argument, especially here. Torres probably could have laid a clock-cleaninghit in a way that didn’t injure Seabrook (say a hip check). The NHL has said no more blindside hits to the head and, given the restrictions they laid out, this counts.
The days of “getting your bell rung”are long gone, and they’re never coming back. That’s a good thing, but the results leave the NHL in a precarious identity crisis. We love big hits... LOVE them. But we don’t like devestating injuries. By we I mean, management, TV executives, fans, players and pretty much everyone. I don’t envy the NHL’s position on this, because it may be no-win. It’s quite possible that wanting big hits without injuries is akin to having our cake and eating it too. If that’s the case, then the NHL & NHLPA will have to pick a direction to take the game, and it will no doubt alienate some fans.
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