From Comcast SportsNetNHL Commissioner Gary Bettman's vision of a bigger footprint for hockey is finally coming into focus.But it's not just the skyrocketing TV ratings for these playoffs in markets both traditional, like Philly, Boston and Chicago, and those traditionally slow to come around, like Los Angeles, Miami and Phoenix. It's the tire marks on the backs of the jerseys of some of the league's best players. The game has never been more popular, nor seemed so out of control.The latest to get run over was the Blackhawks' Marian Hossa, who was taken off the ice in Chicago on a stretcher and briefly hospitalized after absorbing a blow to the head from a shoulder hit launched by Phoenix's Raffi Torres. Everybody in the building saw it -- including apparently Bettman himself, who was in attendance -- except the four officials whose job it is to police that kind of mayhem. And because they didn't see it, according to a league statement issued after the game, they didn't call a penalty, despite the fact that Torres left his skates to deliver the blow."First off, I hope he's all right," Torres, a serial offender as cheap shots go, said after the game. "But as far as the hit goes, I felt like it was a hockey play. I was just trying to finish my hit out there, and, as I said, I hope he's all right."Chicago coach Joel Quenneville was so mad after the game that he was sputtering."It was a brutal hit. You can have a multiple-choice question, it's All of the above.' I saw exactly what happened, it was right in front of me, and all four guys missed it."The refereeing tonight," he added, "was a disgrace."It was. But even the best officiating crews are helpless against the tide of fights, cross-checks, hits to the head and sneak attacks that is overwhelming some otherwise very entertaining hockey. They aren't getting much help, either, from league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan, whose decisions grow more bizarre with each incident that reaches his desk. Shanahan began by letting Nashville's Shea Weber off with a 2,500 fine -- roughly the cost of one shift -- after the All-Star purposely smashed the head of Detroit forward Henrik Zetterberg into the glass at the end of Game 1 of their series. Then he suspended Chicago's Andrew Shaw and New York's Carl Hagelin for three games each after both hit opponents without obvious intent during the run of play.Cross-checking, hair-pulling, instigating fights -- Shanahan has handed out punishments for all those violations, too, with differing results. As a former player of some stature, he took the job determined to bring some predictability to the punishment his office doles out and even explained his decisions with accompanying video evidence. But lately those explanations have been all over the map. Players no longer know whether the line is being drawn at intent or result -- injuring another player -- or even the star power of the violator who winds up in the dock. So everybody, from Sidney Crosby to repeat offenders like Torres are getting in on the action.After winning 3-2 in overtime Tuesday night, Phoenix goalie Mike Smith was asked about the different sentences being handed out and whether he trusted the NHL front office to get each one right. In Game 2, the Blackhawks' Shaw ran over Smith, who has a history of concussions, behind his net and got the three-game sentence, even though the goalkeeper hasn't missed a minute of playing time. Even more maddening -- as far as the Blackhawks were concerned -- was that the length of Shaw's suspension wasn't announced until Tuesday afternoon, once it was determined Smith would play in Game 3. Had he been unable to go, presumably Shaw's suspension would have been even longer."I don't know if it's a trust factor. It's a tough job. Whether it's blatant, on purpose, or not. It's tough to get that read up there," Smith said. "Obviously, the head hits have to be cut down. It's people's livelihoods, not hockey ... people have families and kids at home and wives, and when we're getting into head and concussion issues around the whole league, I think we need to put a stop to it."But the NHL's commitment to limit concussions is either full-time, as it has been for the past few seasons and most of this one, or it's not. The league knows the difference, but it also knows that pandemonium on the ice is a lot easier for plenty of viewers to follow than a puck. Sold-out arenas and through-the-roof TV ratings across the board, including towns like Phoenix -- whose Coyotes may well be playing in another city next season -- are a testament to that.Back in January, even as the league was touting the fact that fights-per-game had dropped to low levels not seen since the mid-70s, Toronto general manager Brian Burke groused out loud about having to send his enforcer, Colton Orr, down to the Leafs' American Hockey League affiliate.Burke, who once held Shanahan's job, said his team was barely able to use Orr -- he appeared in just five of Toronto's 39 games -- because hardly anyone wanted to fight him. He predicted that abandoning the code that governed who fought and when would result in more players taking cheap shots and seeking revenge in even more dangerous ways."I wonder where we're going with it, that's the only lament I have on this," he said at the time. "The fear that if we don't have guys looking after each other, that the rats will take this game over."Too late. They already have.
Welcome back, college football. We missed you.
With the 2016 college football season officially upon us, we come to the culmination of CSNChicago.com's outrageously comprehensive Big Ten football preview.
Take a look at some of the big-picture pieces previewing and attempting to predict what will happen in the conference this season, and go team-by-team for the biggest storylines on all 14 of the campuses throughout Big Ten Country.
Games start this week, so be sure to get your reading in now. You'll be an expert by kickoff.
Illinois Fighting Illini
Michigan State Spartans
Minnesota Golden Gophers
Ohio State Buckeyes
Penn State Nittany Lions
Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Who wants it more?
We are putting High School Lites, Chicagoland’s top prep sports show, in the hands of area football fans in our “Viewers’ Choice Game of the Week.” Fans will get the chance to pick one game that the @CSNPreps crew will cover on Friday night. We will send our cameras to the game that gets the most votes; highlights of that game will appear on that night’s “High School Lites” broadcast at 11:00pm—just after White Sox baseball. The show also live streams at csnchicago.com. High School Lites will also have broadcast replays at 7:30am and 8:30am the following Saturday. This week, we head back out to “The Region,” as fans will choose between the following Northwest Indiana games:
Crown Point at Merrillville, 7 p.m.
Lake Central at Portage, 7 p.m.
Polls open Monday at noon and close Thursday at 4 p.m. Fans are encouraged to vote more than once! Vote now right here.
Be sure to follow @CSNPreps for updates on the “Viewers’ Choice Game of the week,” along with other football news, scores and highlights this season.
Rules: official votes are tabulated exclusively on Twitter and Facebook via the link above. “Re-Tweets” and “Likes” do not count. Also, the original wording of the Twitter/Facebook voting prompt (including hashtags) cannot be manipulated in any fashion. However, feel free to add emojis, numbers, etc. at the end of an official vote’s text, provided there is a space after the final hashtag. Automatically timed-interval (“bot”) votes will also not count.
It's pretty hard to project who will be the best players in the Big Ten.
But thanks to last year's success and high hopes for their teams, we can cobble together a preseason all-conference roster.
It will surely look different in December than it does right now — and hopefully we didn't come up with too glaring an omission — but here it is, your @CSNBigTen preseason All-Big Ten Team.
Quarterback: J.T. Barrett, Ohio State
Running back: Justin Jackson, Northwestern
Running back: Corey Clement, Wisconsin
Wide receiver: Amara Darboh, Michigan
Wide receiver: Jordan Westerkamp, Nebraska
Tight end: Jake Butt, Michigan
Offensive line: Dan Feeney, Indiana
Offensive line: Pat Elflein, Ohio State
Offensive line: Erik Magnuson, Michigan
Offensive line: Brian Allen, Michigan State
Offensive line: Billy Price, Ohio State
Defensive line: Malik McDowell, Michigan State
Defensive line: Chris Wormley, Michigan
Defensive line: Dawuane Smoot, Illinois
Defensive line: Ryan Glasgow, Michigan
Linebacker: Anthony Walker, Northwestern
Linebacker: Raekwon McMillan, Ohio State
Linebacker: Vince Biegel, Wisconsin
Linebacker: Hardy Nickerson, Illinois
Defensive back: Jourdan Lewis, Michigan
Defensive back: Desmond King, Iowa
Defensive back: Jabrill Peppers, Michigan
Defensive back: Will Likely, Maryland
Return specialist: Janarion Grant, Rutgers
Kicker: Griffin Oakes, Indiana
Punter: Cameron Johnston, Ohio State