NHL playoff violence: fights, hits mar hockey playoffs

Violence is up in this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs — and so are ratings. NHL head of player safety Brendan Shanahan has doled out nine suspensions this postseason, already twice as many compared with the entire 2011 postseason. The NHL has become more aware of the long-term effects of head injuries sustained by hockey players. But after taking a tough stand against nasty fights and dirty hits at the beginning of the 2011-2012 season, Shanahan has been inconsistent in disciplining players. Some say it’s because NHL owners don’t want him to.

In the most egregious incident in this year’s NHL playoffs, Phoenix Coyotes winger Raffi Torres has been suspended indefinitely for a brutal head shot on Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa. Torres faces a disciplinary hearing with the player safety committee today in New York, and the Blackhawks want Shanahan to throw the book at him.

It’s a chance for Shanahan to reign in the violence. Will he send a strong signal, or will he allow the violence in professional hockey to continue to spin out of control?

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