NHL Anaheim Ducks

Marian Hossa and Nathan Horton: Why They’re Similar and What Needs to be Done

Sure, I’m a Boston Bruins fan, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy watching other teams play. (As a Center Ice subscriber, during the regular season it can be just plain old fun to enjoy other teams’ broadcasts and regional ads.) Especially during the playoffs, it’s nice to watch other teams’ games. I also know a few really nice Chicago Blackhawks fans, so I decided to look in on game three of their playoff series against the Phoenix Coyotes.

Little did I know that, when I did, I’d be transported back to June 6, 2011.

With the first period of the Blackhawks-Coyotes game starting to wind down, Marian Hossa makes a pass in the neutral zone and then, long after he’d let go of the puck, Raffi Torres comes up and hits Hossa. His feet leave the ice, his shoulder hits Hossa’s head and then Hossa has to leave the game on a stretcher.

Does any of this sound horribly familiar? Perhaps like the Aaron Rome-Nathan Horton hit during game three of the Stanley Cup Finals?

Let’s look at both videos side by side for comparison.

http://youtu.be/fY9CmK86fhs

http://youtu.be/pUYqTE3cnuQ

Similarities:

  • Neither Horton nor Hossa are in possession of the puck at the time of the hit
  • Shoulder-to-head hits where the hitter’s feet leave the ice
  • Gut-wrenching closeups of the injured player on the ice, struggling just to breathe
  • Injured player leaves on a stretcher, is transported to local hospital

Differences:

  • Hossa didn’t have an overnight hospital stay after the hit; Horton did
  • Bruins had a five-minute power play following Horton’s hit; Blackhawks were on penalty kill following Hossa’s hit (Torres was assessed no penalty at all under the claim that the referees didn’t see the hit)
  • Torres played the rest of the game; Rome was done for the night
  • Bruins won their game 8-1; Blackhawks lost 3-2 in overtime

The aftermath seems the same, though: players from the hitter’s team claim that it was a good play, while players from the victim’s team defend him and vow to play for his sake.

Another potential difference could be how long the hitters are punished for their hits. Rome was suspended for four games, an unprecedented length of time in a Final-level punishment, and that worked out to equal the rest of the series. Torres is suspended until a hearing on April 20.

I would try to estimate what he might get from this hearing, but NHL discipline has been so inconsistent that I’d have better luck being blindfolded and attempting to throw darts at a dartboard labeled with outcomes instead. Even though Hossa’s out of the hospital and the team doctor feels optimistic about his progress, he’s not going to play in game four. His tests may yield a terrible result, the same as the one Horton got after Rome’s hit.

Keeping all of this in mind, and knowing Torres’ history, I would think that it’ll be a while before anyone sees Torres on the ice again. But, again, the inconsistency could produce a nasty end-of-the-week shock. Look for the decision to be handed down late in the evening Eastern time in an attempt to throw reporters off the scent–that’s a common tactic used in political news, too, but it never works in this day and age.

I know that if I were in Brendan Shanahan’s shoes, I’d take a much harder-line approach to bad injury-causing hits. Players still don’t seem to know what’s okay and what’s not okay. If he were stricter and more serious with the doling out of punishments, no matter what, maybe players would learn what to do and what to avoid. On-ice officials need a refresher course, too. It’s funny to joke “hey, ref, check your phone, you missed some calls,” but when they miss something as egregious as the Torres hit, that’s cause for concern.

Players may also need a quick lesson on showing respect for one another, regardless of what color sweater they wear, as that may cut down on hits like these as well. Not to sound like every disapproving mother out there, but it is just a game: it is not worth someone’s life or quality of life.

Someone already showing concern is U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley, representing Illinois’ Fifth District. An avid hockey fan himself, he’s the founder and chair of the Congressional Hockey Caucus, and he took to his Twitter feed to show how he feels about the situation:

As Hockey Caucus Chair it’s inappropriate for me to discuss lousy, incompetent, inept, disgraceful officiating but I will ask House Oversight [Committee] to investigate how NHL officials last night could have their Lasik surgery go so wrong.

So, not only do we have NHL sponsors (the folks with all the money!) wondering what is going on with regards to discipline, we also have lawmakers–even if Quigley is only joking, at least he’s saying something.

Now we wait to see what Shanahan will say on Friday.