Marian Hossa hasn’t forgotten the hit by Raffi Torres
BY MARK LAZERUS email@example.com February 6, 2013 3:28PM
Hawks forward Marian Hossa is down on the ice after suffering a hit by Coyotes winger Raffi Torres in the first period of game three of the first-round Stanley Cup series between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Phoenix Coyotes Tuesday April 17, 2012. | TOM CRUZE~Sun-Times
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Updated: February 7, 2013 3:01PM
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Healthy, clear-headed and playing at a high level, Marian Hossa has moved on from the vicious, illegal hit to the head that Phoenix Coyotes forward Raffi Torres delivered during Game 3 of a first-round playoff series last April.
But Hossa — who was taken off on a stretcher and dealt with the effects of a concussion until nearly Thanksgiving as a result of the hit — hasn’t forgotten.
“It’s a thing you don’t forget,” the Hawks winger said.
It’s a thing Hossa’s teammates haven’t forgotten, either. And they’ll be sharing a sheet of ice with Torres on Thursday night for the first time since the hit, which earned Torres a 25-game suspension that just ended two games ago. Hossa has said all the right things since the hit — that he’s turned the page, that it’s “just a normal game.” And while Hossa’s not the type of player who’s going to seek retribution in any way other than on the scoreboard, there surely are a handful of Hawks who would like to do just that.
Will there be payback? Will Torres have to spend the game looking over his shoulder? Or will the Hawks not want to risk their 8-0-2 start and throw away a precious two points by taking a rash of penalties in an attempt at revenge? The intrigue has ratcheted up the intensity of an already heightened rivalry.
Torres, without much regret in his voice, shrugged it off and said Wednesday that “whatever happens out there, happens out there.” He, like Hossa, insisted that he’s moved past the ugliest incident of a career dotted with controversial hits, and the third-longest suspension in NHL history that followed it.
“I was over it the day after they told me I got 25 games,” he said. “It’s not a big deal. I don’t think about it every day.”
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville equated Thursday’s showdown to his team’s game at Vancouver last Friday, in which Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith had the target on his back for his elbow that concussed Daniel Sedin last season.
The difference, however, is that Keith didn’t have a track record. The Canucks players — even while expressing their disgust over the hit — noted that Keith was a respected player and not a known cheap-shot artist. And Keith was largely left alone during the game, two points more important than fleeting vengeance.
But when asked if that respect doesn’t exist in the Hawks dressing room for Torres — who in 2011 was suspended four games for a head-shot against Edmonton’s Jordan Eberle, and delivered two controversial postseason hits on Hawks defenseman Brent Seabrook while with the Canucks — Mayers paused, squinted and spoke through gritted teeth.
“That’s fair to say,” he said, all but biting his lip to prevent himself from saying anything that might cause a stir.
Torres called Hossa to apologize after the hit, and insisted on Wednesday that he’s a changed man who’s learned the error of his ways — even if his motives are a little more selfish than humanitarian.
“We have to protect the top players in the league, and if it’s going to take me thinking a little bit out there instead of running around with my head cut off, that’s what it’s going to take,” he said. “At the end of the day, I need to keep playing. This is what I want to do. And if I want to keep playing in this league, I’m going to have change the way [I play].”
Quenneville said the best revenge is winning the game. Hossa thinks so, too. It remains to be seen what his teammates truly feel, though. Torres will find out soon enough.
“I don’t really care,” Hossa said. “It’s tough for me to judge what everybody else thinks. But for myself, I’ll go to Phoenix and just play another game and not worry about anything else.”