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Stopping head shots? Make offenders like Torres a target for teammates

by | CBSSports.com National Columnist
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Avoiding scenes like Marian Hossa's scary stay on the ice Tuesday should be the main objective. (Getty Images)  
Avoiding scenes like Marian Hossa's scary stay on the ice Tuesday should be the main objective. (Getty Images)  

Raffi Torres called what he did to Marian Hossa in Tuesday night's Game 3 between the Phoenix Coyotes and Chicago Blackhawks "a hockey hit," which served to do one thing. It made hockey fights seem benign and even noble by comparison.

And no, this will not be a defense of fighting, so ramp down the indignation. We're not only taking a bold and courageous step against unprovoked blindside head shots (which is sort of like coming out against orphanage hospital fires, when you think of it), but offering a solution that will assure that the next head shot will be delivered not to an opponent but to a teammate.

Simply put, here is the cure.

Any head shot in which the player was targeted deliberately for that purpose results in a series-length suspension, or in the regular season or in case of the series ending too quickly, a 10-gamer in the next season.

Plus, the organization being fined a ridiculous amount of money even by their standards.

Plus, and this is the kicker, the miscreant's team plays with one less player for the duration of the suspension. Not a perpetual power play, but with one less skater available -- 17 instead of 18.

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And why should others pay for one player's stupidity? Because peer pressure still works best, and the threat that one's own teammates could deliver a few head shots to you would straighten your attitude right out.

These playoffs have been as much fun as ever, but the cheap shots that started when Shea Weber decided to retaliate for some alleged slight by Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg by ramming his head into the boards, rasslin'-style, haven't stopped. And they haven't stopped because Weber wasn't suspended, and was fined only $2,500, the maximum amount allowed by NHL law.

Indeed, the level of punishment meted out by the league's dean of students, Brendan Shanahan, has been as erratic as Marc-Andre Fleury, thus making this solution even more palatable.

If head shots really are bad (and we are coming out fully in favor of this postulate), they must be stopped at any cost, and in hockey, the greatest costs are A) Missing the playoffs entirely; and B) getting knocked out of the playoffs.

And a team that is suddenly carrying more individual loads because one of their brethren decides to go rogue is going to want to punish the person who increases that workload, or jeopardizes their chances at advancement.

In this case, Ray Whitney or Shane Doan coming up to Torres in a quiet moment and giving him a head shot to let him know how much damage he has done.

The other alternative to this is for the league to throw up its hands and say, "Fine, kill each other, right there on the ice where people, and lawyers, can see. If you like this so much, then have at it."

But this system isn't working, and it's supposed to be more draconian than the earlier one. So we're going with the old boarding school approach, where you would catch it "just in case you do something later and we're not around to catch you" plan.

And yes, this is over the top, because the problem is over the top. Raffi Torres didn't make the game better Tuesday night, and neither did Weber on Night 1, or Matt Carkner, or James Neal, or Aaron Asham, or ... well, you get it.

So it's time to hammer everyone, including the organizations with seven-figure fines just to make sure the bosses fully get that a head shot hurts everyone.

Because it does. Ask Roger Goodell how well rampant concussions are playing in his shop if you don't believe it.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.com.

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