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The irresponsible comments of Coyotes GM Don Maloney represent what’s wrong with the NHL

Marian HossRaffi Torres

Marian Hossa, Raffi Torres

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Updated: May 21, 2012 8:59AM

I’d like to dismiss Don
Maloney’s recent comments as the ramblings of someone caught in the grip of senility, but he’s only 53. That leaves early onset stupidity as the logical explanation. I believe it hit when he was 3.

“You would think Raffi murdered a busload of children the way he’s portrayed here in Chicago,” the Coyotes’ general manager told the Arizona Republic.

It’s the oldest dodge in the world: Use hyperbole to diminish the severity of some unpleasant thing.

American soldiers are dying in Afghanistan, and you’re complaining about high property taxes?!

Maloney seems to think the outrage over unrepentant punk Raffi Torres has to do with the parochialism of Chicago and not the dirtiness of Torres’ hit on the Blackhawks’ Marian Hossa in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series. Sure. A player leaves on a stretcher, and the obvious story is a bunch of overreacting homers.

What we’re dealing with here is a fool. And the truly frightening thing is that Maloney is just one of many on the ship of fools called the NHL.

If he were an isolated case, it would be one thing. But there are many more Don Maloneys roaming around the league, knuckle-draggers who wouldn’t mind a Hanson brother or three causing mayhem on the ice.

This goes well beyond a GM protecting a player from public criticism. This is a high-ranking official advocating a style of play that should have no place in the game.

“It’s like, well, hold it now,’’ Maloney said. “This is a hard-played game. To me, it was part of a hockey play, and I’m not defending [it]. Obviously an offense occurred, but it was not a situation where he took his stick and hit someone in the head. We’re talking about probably two-hundredths of a second it went from being a regular hit to being a little late hit.’’

Part of a hockey play? Human sacrifice used to be part of some cultures, but not anymore. Fighting is one thing. Fighting involves two willing combatants. When the Hawks’ Brandon Bollig took on Paul Bissonnette in the first period Thursday night, each knew what to expect. Blind hits on defenseless players are indefensible.

Let’s be honest. We were all waiting to see how the Hawks would respond Thursday night to Torres’ hit on Hossa. That’s partly why we were at Game 4, watched it on TV or listened to it on radio. Would the Hawks respond in kind? Or would they respond more kindly?

Believe me, I fully understand that fans came to the United Center to see the Hawks beat the Coyotes and tie the series. What they got instead was Mikkel Boedker’s overtime goal and a 3-2 Phoenix victory. The Hawks are one loss away from their offseason vacations.

But it was the possibility of revenge, however it might be served, that had the adrenaline flowing Thursday, and you could feel it as fans started lining up on Madison Street.

To not acknowledge that is to not be human. There’s some of it in all of us, something primal and ugly. It’s why hockey is popular and why fighting in the sport is accepted and, more, celebrated.

But the NHL has a responsibility to be better than that. And people like Maloney should have no place in it. If he can’t see the intent in Torres’ hit, he’s blind in addition to stupid.

The league has suspended Torres indefinitely. Hossa didn’t play Thursday night, and the Hawks aren’t saying what his specific injury is, which is how they do it in the NHL.

The referees saw no evil in the Game 3 hit and didn’t call a penalty on Torres. Hawks coach Joel Quenneville spoke evil of the officiating afterward, and the league fined him $10,000. That, too, is so NHL.

We need to accept that hockey is a different sport, with its own code and customs. But the NHL is so behind the times, the players might as well dress in bellbottoms and platform shoes. At the black heart of Torres’ hit was the belief that he could get away with it. And he was right. He had seen the league’s fuzziness and indecision in meting out punishment during the playoffs. Might as well take a run at one of the Hawks’ stars. No penalty.

That’s not parochialism. That’s fact.

Maloney might have been on the receiving end of some of those nasty hits in his playing career. Maybe he was concussed one time too many. That could explain his brain-cell shortage too.

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