Becks and I have talked about trying to maintain an even keel during the post-season, to try not to get too emotionally involved. She’s dubbed it, “hockey zen”. We got off to a good start, sure there was bitching over blown too many men on the ice penalties and blown leads but we were doing pretty well.
Then the nonsense with the Pens happened and there was anger, sadness, disappointment. Becks took it harder than I did because she’s closer to that team and the apparent lack of injuries made it a little easier to stomach.
Then there was the Andrew Shaw suspension delay, posturing by the Coyotes, and inexplicable length of 3 games and I was incensed. A lot of people were calling for zero games, including Jeff Marek & Greg Wyshynski, whose opinions I respect greatly. I thought one game was acceptable because I thought Shaw was a little reckless and the GMs clearly indicated that they want to protect goalies. I adore our little rookie-rat-in-training, but I don’t ever want him crossing the line. If a brief suspension calms him down a little, pulls him back from the edge, then I’d consider it a good thing. I don’t understand the 3 games however based on the murky logic that has been laid out by the department of player safety thus far. (I’m going to write an entire separate post on the issues involved in the current supplemental discipline process. It will be lengthy.)
So my zen was already a little shaken entering last night’s game. I really wanted to beat the Coyotes (not that I didn’t before, just that my desire was a little more intense).
Then IT happened.
One minute Marian Hossa was standing there and the next he was on the ice and not moving. The Windy City and the rest of the hockey world held its collective breath. On the ice, a few players went right for the hitter, who was, to exactly no-one’s surprise Raffi Torres. Exactly one year to the day from his terrible hit on Brent Seabrook in Round 1 against the Canucks, Torres targeted another key Hawks player. We looked on in horror as Marian Hossa, the man we affectionately refer to as “God”, was stretchered off the ice and taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital via ambulance. There was no call on the ice, in fact the Coyotes ended up with a power play.
Coach Q was irate and in a bench interview with NBCSN (AND BTW THAT’S AN AWFUL PRACTICE THAT MUST BE STOPPED) he called out the officiating failures.
“It was a brutal hit. I can’t believe four guys missed it. It makes me sick.”
He’ll get a hefty fine for that, but if it was said in the heat of the moment, his post game comments weren’t.
“It was a brutal hit. You can have a multiple choice question it’s ‘All the above’. I saw exactly what happened, it was right in front of me. How four guys missed it tonight it was hard. The refereeing tonight was a disgrace.”
Just tell him where to send the check, NHL.
Twitter went berserk and fans struggled to care about the game they wanted to win when all they could think about was Hossa. I was barely holding it together, blinking back tears and trying not to think about Hossa when the Neal & Asham suspensions came in. 1 and 4 games respectively.
That’s when I lost it. That’s when the tears started flowing.
For the record, I like James Neal. I think he’s an adorable goof. After watching him take a number of dumb penalties in games earlier this season, I described him to Lily as an “over-excited puppy who does dumb things and makes me want to whack him on the nose with a rolled up newspaper.” What he did to Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux in the last game however, was unconscionable. The idea that a guy who is head hunting gets 1 game because he fails to injure and a guy who recklessly, but unintentionally, makes contact gets 3 is just laughable. Or it would be if it wasn’t so damn sad. (To be clear, I’m not saying Shaw unintentionally touched Smith. I believe he had every intention of bumping him, but I don’t believe the contact with the head was intentional in the slightest).
Someone on twitter (or maybe it was Puck Daddy? Sorry I can’t remember to credit properly) made the analogy to drunk driving. If you’re caught driving drunk the cops don’t let you off just because nobody got hurt and just because you make it home from the bar without hurting someone it doesn’t mean it’s a morally acceptable choice. If we’re talking about changing behavior, we can’t only punish the ‘successes’. That leads to guys like Raffi Torres continuing to play the worst kind of hockey, only taking the occasional break for suspensions. (Also, I need to write a post of about Burkean scapegoating because as much as I despise Raffi Torres, vilifying him is easy and lazy and masks serious cultural issues. Not a good thing.)
For all the ugliness of the hit, vitriol online, the disappointment at losing, there was something wonderful last night. The Blackhawks players did that annoying thing we’re always talking about but rarely seems to happen.
They stayed classy.
They were mad as hell that Torres remained in the game, but they didn’t start head hunting Torres or any other Coyotes player (kicking offenders of nasty hits out is not just a matter of punishment it’s a matter of safety and game management. Look what happened when the refs failed to boot Duncan Keith after his brutal elbow on Daniel Sedin. Duncs shouldn’t have seen the ice again that night and the remaining players probably wouldn’t have engaged in so many after the whistle scrums.) The team stuck together, stuck to hockey and kept from lashing out.
That’s not to say they rolled over and played dead either, there was push back. After Mike Smith shoved his blocker in Patrick Sharp’s face repeatedly at the end of a period, Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford skated over and had a few words with him.
After the game, players declined opportunities to bash Torres (despite lots of prodding by reporters) though Toews did call out the on-ice officials, the Department of Player safety and said that Torres is likely to continue his style of play without intervention. It’s quite possibly the most candid interview I’ve seen him give and it’s clear he’s mad as hell. He’s also incredibly articulate and while forceful, he doesn’t make hyperbolic or over the top inflammatory statements. [Watch his comments in their entirety here]
In a week where we’ve seen a lot of childish behavior from captains, coaches, reporters, fans, etc. I’ve never been more proud of my team, my coach and my captain. Do I want to win this series? Damn right I do. Last year the Seabrook hit was a rallying point for the Blackhawks and hopefully this one will be as well.
But you know what? I’ll take losing with dignity if it comes down to it.