Last night Raffi Torres steamrolled Brent Seabrook behind the Hawks net and got two minutes for interference. Instantly fans and media were reacting on twitter. The opinions ranged from "He should be suspended for the rest of the playoffs," to "It was a hard hit and guys need to keep their head up."

There is no debating that Torres hits hard. Some would say that he hits to hurt, and there might be some truth to that, but he also is one of the few players who knows can change the outcome with a big hit; whether it is clean or borderline.

Bob McKenzie pointed out in his blog how the NHL views the area behind the net as a "hitting zone", and I’m happy they do. Had the puck not bounced over Seabrook’s stick then Torres would have hit him when he had the puck. There is no way Torres could have predicted that the puck wouldn’t have touched Seabrook’s stick. On super slow motion it is clear that the initial contact was to Seabrook’s head, so it is fair to suggest it was a head shot.

My complaint about headshots is that it seems many want all the responsibility to fall on the hitter, not the guy getting hit. This is a slippery slope for the NHL, and hockey in general, because if they send the message that you don’t have to protect yourself; I suspect we will see more injuries due to headshots not less.

Of course players shouldn’t be allowed to take deliberate runs at another player’s head, and based on the data this past year blind-sided head shots were down compared to last season, but there are instances where the puck carrier/receiver needs to be responsible for keeping his head up.

When I saw the Torres hit in real time, I thought it was a hard, but not dirty, hit. After TV showed the replay over a hundred times, it was clear the initial contact was to the head, albeit it by the slimmest of margins. The players don’t play in slow motion, and that is why I’m always leery of showing the replays in slow motion, because I don’t think that is a fair way to illustrate the hit. Many times even in slow motion it doesn’t prove where the first point of contact was.

According to McKenzie and Nick Kypreos it sounds like the NHL won’t be handing out a suspension.

I don’t have an issue with that, but the bigger issue is how Seabrook was treated after the hit. He didn’t miss a shift, he didn’t have to go to a "quiet room" and get looked at, and a few shifts later Torres landed a perfectly clean shoulder hit that seemed to stun Seabrook, and only then did he leave the bench and go to the "quiet room."

The biggest issue with headshots is diagnosing them properly. Of course Seabrook didn’t want to leave the bench in a playoff game to get checked out. Guys are competitive, and when their adrenaline is flowing they will convince themselves they feel fine, even if they are seeing stars.

The Torres hit illustrated that the NHL still has a long ways to go in finding the line between a clean hit, or a suspendable one, and more importantly, they need to find a better protocol on evaluating a player after he has been hit hard.

With the speed of the game increasing every year, I’m not sure there will ever be a perfect solution, and while this might sound insensitive, I think that is a big part of what makes the game exciting. The potential of a big hit is what makes the game so exciting at times, and if that is what we like about the game, then the reality is that at times a player will deliver an illegal hit.

I don’t ever want to see a player get injured, but I do like seeing big hits, and because of that I expect that we will see borderline ones now and again.

That is exciting and dangerous at the same time. 

  • positivebrontefan

    Keep your head up and be aware of what’s coming at you and you don’t give guys like Torres a chance to take your head off. Sure they’ll catch a guy once in a while but I think taking the onus off of the guy with the puck is only going to make them less aware of what’s coming and it’ll only get worse. Tell me how many times you got rocked when you first played hit hockey before you learned to take a look behind you before digging for the puck in the corner. To this day I don’t understand the mentality of some of these guys going head first into the boards with their back to the opposition (protecting the puck) it’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve seen and by taking away the hit you are rewarding stupidity and opening up a whole can of worms. Protect yourself, thats the same reason I wear my seat belt, so I don’t get hurt when some idiot runs into me. The only problem is they made it a law and now stupid people get to live through an accident that would normaly be taken care of by Darwins law and the stupid people get to continue breeding making even stupider people.

    Whew…I feel better now.

    • Wax Man Riley

      The only problem is they made it a law and now stupid people get to live through an accident that would normaly be taken care of by Darwins law and the stupid people get to continue breeding making even stupider people.

      I have been sitting here for 30 minutes pounding my mouse trying to give you more props. That is a great final line and sums up what is not only becoming a problem in our favorite sport, but in our daily lives.*

      *I in NO WAY, want anybody to be hurt in a car accident, no matter the circumstances**

      **Ok, maybe the guy that almost ran over my wife and I, walking across the street today because he not only wan’t paying attention to us, but ran a stop sign. Good thing we had our heads up.

  • Chris.

    This hit was WAYYY cleaner than the Eberle hit….Torres never changed his path last minute, he dindn’t leave his feet, and he even coasted for the last few feet before contact. Since this is a head on collision, that makes head contact LEGAL!

    The only problem here was that Seabrook MAY NOT have touched the puck…albeit too close to call


  • Mantastic

    wasn’t the stoll hit on ian white in the “hitting zone”? sure he had his elbow up but would it have been any cleaner if he threw his shoulder into the back of white’s head?

  • Wax Man Riley

    I remember the old days, guys in my class used to say “head down over the middle”. In other words, if you have your head down, your fault, I can knock your head off your shoulders. Don’t think the old way cuts it anymore, just like you can’t club a guy in the head with your stick anymore. So sorry that I had my head down looking at the puck and attending to the play. I guess you may sever my head. My fault for trying to play the freaking game. Next time I’ll just ignore the fact that there is a puck on the ice and skate around trying to neanderthal someone. That would make the vocal minority happy.

  • Death Metal Nightmare

    i really want to see a player die just so we can make sure this sport is macho as hell. when someone does die, it will be a great day for Man Sports.

    • We could always just change the game to checkers and make sure no one ever gets hurt. OR, only allow EA to simulate a contact sport on Playstations. No one gets hurt, except for the occasional sore thumb/controller tossing incident.

      • Lego

        I don’t know why the NHL doesn’t institute same Checking the Head penalty that they have in minor hockey. My son played Minor Midget AAA this year and there was lots of hitting and physical play, more than several NHL games that I saw this year. But if a player targeted the head it was 2 and 10 minimum. And you know what the players are aware of the rule and they adapt to it. I only saw Checking to the head called 3 or 4 times this year and I personally saw over 60 minor hockey games. If 15 year old players can avoid checking to the head so can the “adults” in the NHL.

        We all accept that you have to be responsible with your stick and even if you accidentally hit or brush someone in the head with it you go to the box. I don’t see why we can have that same policy with shoulders and elbows too.

        The NHL proves once again that they aren’t really that concerned with player safety.

        • Wax Man Riley

          So if you have seen.. lets just say low-ball, 3 head hits in 60 games, that is 5% of games having head hits.

          Each team has 82 games. 82 games x 30 teams = 2460 games a year. (or do you have to divide by 2 because 2 teams play? 1230 games)

          1230 x 5% = 61.5….again…. low-ball 61 games.

          I don’t think we have seen 61 games this year with hits targeting the head. If someone has a number of questionable hits, please post. My guess is 20.

          This is a better ratio than Midget AAA. I could argue that they don’t care about player safety in that Midget AAA league. I would not let my child play in that league! He will be put in Jazz dancing instead.

          I will agree that the NHL has to be more consistent if they want to make a change. I worry, as someone posted above, @ Chris F.S.T.N.F. said, this rule change could possibly change the games in ways that they don’t anticipate. Just like the hitting from behind rule. Now players turn their back to the play, putting themselves in dangerous situations, because of that rule.

      • Wax Man Riley

        Ummm…but we will have to make sure they are Nerf padded controllers, and that no one plays for longer that 15 minutes at a time so we don’t have a rash of eye-strain.

  • Death Metal Nightmare

    also, the “head down” arguments are lame. Seabrook is getting pursued from the other side (no idea which player) and hes attempting to make a play on the puck so he doesnt get hemmed down in the “HITTING ZONE” (lame term). whats he going to do? stop and look for guys who are about to hit him while the puck is buried in the boards first? idiots.

    anyone who thinks you can play hockey 100% of the time with your head up is a moron macho idiot. the best you got is typing analysis on a keyboard – and you probably have your head down while doing that too – bozo.

    • Wax Man Riley

      Feel free to walk across the street with your head down.

      I agree that it isn’t possible to play the game the entire time with your head up, but in this case, Seabrook has to protect himself and not turn his back along the boards.

      As db7db7db7 said, a player has to be in control of his stick all the time, so why not your shoulder or your elbows etc…? So yes, Raffi is at fault, but my point is that Seabrook put himsel fin a bad position. Darwin at work.

        • Wax Man Riley

          True, but watch the play and Seabrook has no idea who is on the ice. His head is down the entire time not looking who may be coming from the other side.

          I’m not a big guy, so when I go around the net to get a puck, I’m looking to see who is coming because I don’t want to get hurt.

          • Lego

            if torres went shoulder to shoulder with seabrook there is no problem with this hit from me. whether he had his head down or not is not relevant to me. i am, and have always been advocating for a no hit to the head rule. these are an un-necessary part of the game and we need to change accordingly.

          • Wax Man Riley

            He made contact with his head. Just as the high-sticking rule says, you have to have control of your stick at all times. That’s fair. No contact to the head. Bottom line. Ok.

            NHL has to get very consistent with calling it. If It’s a rule, it is a rule. Play by it.

            I will still argue that Seabrook had no idea someone was coming, and had plenty of time to look over his shoulder. He tried to turn his back to the play and he got hurt. Hopefully he has learned (I’m amazed that he hasn’t already learned after playing hockey every day of his life) not to do that anymore.

  • Wax Man Riley

    On another unrelated note, the only time you will ever hear (see?) me say this:

    Props to Avery for his stick-breaking last night on the icing. I think it was a smart play. FWIW, I still think he is a punk.

  • Wax Man Riley

    If you think about it, It is IMPOSSIBLE to have a blind side hit to the head behind the net. There’s only 2 ways a guy can come at you behind the net, left or right….So there’s really no blindside unless a guy leaps over the net and smashes you in the head

  • Wax Man Riley

    The Stoll hit, is in my opinion the worst of the hits we are talking about because he Lex Lugered the back of whites head into the boards. Raffi plays with an edge but i wouldnt call him dirty… per se. I would just say he has evil intentions.

  • Mike from Canmore's illegitimate love child

    Worst comment had to have been made by Duncan Keith. He thinks this hit is much worse than the Michael Liambis hit that cost him his OHL career. Ya i think Keith is just in denial in the fact the hawks are not the best team anymore. Lost a ton of respect for Keith.

    • Wax Man Riley

      I didn’t hear the quote but if that is what he said, then …

      Worst. Quote. Ever.

      That Liambas hit was brutal. Again, it looks like Fanelli turns his back to Liambas, and doesn’t protect himself. It looks like initial point of contact was the shoulder. I haven’t seen a good enough angle of it though.

      An injury like that is something you never want to see.

  • Wax Man Riley

    I think that todays players like to protect themselves by “hiding” behind the rules. If Raffi is coming at me full speed with pupils the size of frizbees, im not turning my back, im raising my stick for a face full of easton. who turns there back like “haha you cant get me now, my back is turned!!”

  • Wax Man Riley

    No suspension for Torres.

    After debating the merits of the hit, or more so, the fact that Seabrook was crossing the street while listening to his iPod and texting, there looked to be contact to the head and this has to be enforced if this is a rule.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    I like Raffi i like his style of play, and he can definitly change the outcome of a game and series(Oil vs Detroit 06) and i wish ST chose to sign him last off-season, i even liked the hit he laid on Seabrook, but what i didnt like was he skated towards Seabrook at warp speed to lay the smack down even when he knew Seabrook was looking the other way behind the net its those kind of hits that have to stop yes Torres was going like a bullet train towards Seabrook but he still had time IMO to slow down a bit, still hit him sure by all means do your job Raffi but make sure the dude sees whats comin at him before you lower the BOOM.

  • 99thOilerfan

    I just read your write up, nice job.

    My two cents?

    The NHL, NHLPA and I as a fan, do NOT want to lose a talent like Crosby ( etc ) to a “hard head shot”.

    I love the hitting in the game ( yes the fighting too ) but these players are having both their careers and life changed by these types of hits. ( what did they say about Probert and his messed up brain, again? )

    Look, it is going to be up to the players to self enforce this themselves, at the NHLPA level, or maybe out on the ice. Would a head shot that cripples someone, become a court matter ? Who has the final responsibility?

    Now I am going back to read the comments.
    I wonder if anyone else agrees..

  • Wax Man Riley

    Just watching the start of the Habs game, and those little flames that follow the players on the ice are awesome. Also….

    …I miss that anxious, feeling of epicness right before a playoff game and hope more and more for playoffs to return.

  • YFC Prez

    wow the league has a long way to go in dealing with these hits and suspensions, im confused. But in defence for the “keep your head up argument” I would like to add a little bit to this. When watching Torres play he hits very hard, has had a few questionable hits but I don’t think he is at all dirty. Not only does torres hit hard but be takes aggressive hits in return very well. How many times have we oiler fans seen Torres give an opposing player the “cold shoulder” and knock someone on their butt who was charging full speed at him. I can’t imagine Torres ever being in Seabrooks position because he has a natural awarness for when a hit is coming and knows how to protect himself. I guess my thought on this is if Torres can brace himself for impact and take a hard hit well why cant he deliver the same hit. Yes Torres could have backed out of his check on Seabrook but that also goes both ways, Seabrook needs to know what’s coming and pretect himself.

  • Shaun Doe

    Adding my two bits way after the fact here so apologies if I am rehashing old dialog… but if we want to place the onus on both the hitter and those being hit, why not make it a mandatory game misconduct for a hit to the head (accidental or intentional) and make the player who has been hit (concussed or not) leave the game as well to ensure they are 100% symptom free. Now both players miss game time, no ifs ands or buts. This makes players who take their physical game to the edge accountable and teaches players who admire passes just etc. take into consideration just who is heading into the corner/neutral zone/shower with them. Maybe a bit extreme but it seemed the most even handed option to me in the 5 minutes I just spent thinking about it.

  • I use to be old school on headshots. But now I believe real action needs to take place. The NHL is behind the curve on this and will only change its ways once every other league has mandatory head shot suspensions. The rule should be every headshot should be a four minute minor, one game suspension. Remove the subjective. The Torres hit on Seabrook was not malacious. But when someone pulls a “Cooke” then the suspension and severity of suspension should be open to longer suspensions for the player. The NHL can easily get rid of headshots in no time. It chooses not too, and the Campbell’s and Bettman’s have made the NHL look “bush,” because the put the product on the ice before the safety and culture of the league. SHAME

  • Loyal2theOIL

    anybody see a little eric lindros in seabrook, he has been hit hard a number of times in the last season or two, and in every instance he has either put himself in an awkward position or not been “heads up” and known that a hit was coming. no doubt this hit was right on the borderline but everything torres did was clean; elbow down, coast into hit, did not leave feet, etc. there definitely has to be some onus on the player being hit to put himself in a position where they can safely take a hit. in this hit seabrook was leaning forward and leading with his head which in my mind caused the “targeting of the head”. dont get me wrong i do think torres hits to hurt but this time it was clean and the result is due to seabrooks positioning

  • kdunbar

    I remember when I was a wee lad of about 6 or 8 years old (sometime around the oilers first cup win) I remember asking my father why NHL players were paid so much money. Albeit, it’s not today’s numbers, I was told…something along the lines of, “Well son… It’s because it’s a game where a career can end in a heart beat. And if they get hurt seriously enough, it might be hard for them to do anything else to earn money”.

    Now that may not be entirely true, it’s not completely false either. And I’m not suggesting that because they get paid well they deserve to have their heads banged around. I’m just saying, isn’t the ends supposed to be justified by the means? I mean, if their getting paid lots because it’s dangerous, shouldnt they be getting paid less if it’s less dangerous? Not that it is. But that’s part of the “slippery slope”. Less work more pay sort of thing you know??

  • kdunbar

    After seeing the hit and where the puck was, I don’t even really know why Torres got 2 minutes.

    The shoulder was in and Seabrook basically had the puck. Not Torres’ fault Seabrook didn’t see the hit coming right at him because he was looking backwards.

    • Rob...

      I’ve often wondered when an NHL monster will go Bobby Boucher on some poor bastard. I can picture Chara with the puck, skating forward at full speed. There’s some poor opposing forward playing the trap, as his coach insists he should, when Chara surprisingly passes him the puck. Just before that puck hits the stick of the forward, Chara steamrolls him, and continues on, unimpeded for a shot on goal with the now recovered puck.