Chicago Blackhawks v Phoenix Coyotes

Last night the Phoenix Coyotes took on the Chicago Blackhawks with Raffi Torres in the lineup for the first time since his violent, vicious hit on Marian Hossa in playoffs that saw Torres get suspended for a whopping 23 games. Hossa was badly concussed, and didn’t come close to playing another playoff game. As you can probably guess, the Hawks were not thrilled with Coyotes pest villain.

When he showed up at the rink last night, there’s no doubt he knew. He knew he’d have to fight someone on Chicago, likely someone tough, and likely very early in the game. As a team, you just can’t let a guy who cheap-shotted one of your best players – any of your players, really – cruise around and play his game like nothing happened after that.

I understand that a lot of people think fighting in hockey is stupid. They think the concept of “the code” itself is stupid. But I think even those people get this and can live with it: Torres had to fight somebody.

The thing is, he didn’t truly have to fight somebody. He could’ve ignored the requests, taken the slashes, drawn penalties and driven people insane. It’s an option, but it never ends well for guys, who usually end up finding themselves on the wrong end of a cheap shot.

But anyway, Torres did the right thing. He took the first comer under three minutes into the first period, regardless of who it was, and he didn’t hesitate. He knew it was coming, so he got it out of the way. He took some licks, lost a little oil in the process, but was fine. It was over.

I’ve been in the dressing room with guys who have known they owe a fight to the opponent, and it’s kind of scary to watch. They’re usually dead silent (I watched one dude quietly cover his face in vaseline knowing Jeremy Yablonski was going to be his executioner). As routine as fighting may seem to hockey fans, trading face punches isn’t something to look forward to, and even the heavies get nervous about it.

But Torres (and Mayers, for that matter) knew what had to happen, and he answered the bell. I’m not a fan of the guy, but stick-tap to him for that.