Has violence in hockey finally gone too far?

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Has violence in hockey finally gone too far?

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.

The complete 2016 Big Ten football preview

The complete 2016 Big Ten football preview

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.

Why all 14 teams will/won't win the Big Ten this season

Five games that will decide who plays for the Big Ten title

Who wins the Big Ten Championship Game in 2016?

A third straight College Football Playoff appearance for the Big Ten?

The @CSNBigTen preseason All-Big Ten Team

Illinois Fighting Illini

Illini have bought in to Lovie, a positive sign for recruiting

In his final season, Wes Lunt looks to lead Illini through more change

Will Ke'Shawn Vaughn flourish as Illini's go-to back?

Video: CSN goes 1-on-1 with Illini coach Lovie Smith

Video: Wes Lunt on Illinois' offense for 2016

Video: Lovie Smith: "There's a rebirth to our program"

Video: Lovie Smith talks about recruiting process with Illini

Video: Whitman is "confident" Illini will see progress under Lovie

Video: Illinois football impact players ready for the 2016 season

Indiana Hoosiers

To take Hoosiers higher, Kevin Wilson needs to finally fix defense

Devine Redding next to run wild for Hoosiers

Iowa Hawkeyes

Can Hawkeyes turn in worthy encore performance?

C.J. Beathard looks to lead another strong campaign for Hawkeyes

Can Desmond King be even better for Hawkeyes?

Video: C.J. Beathard: "Now we know what it's going to take" to win

Maryland Terrapins

Can DJ Durkin build up Terps in loaded Big Ten East?

Will Likely looks to impact all phases of game for Terps

Can Terps fix woeful quarterback play from a year ago?

Video: Maryland football coach Durkin: "We can recruit with anyone"

Michigan Wolverines

Harbaugh's turnaround yields huge expectations for Michigan

Lewis, Peppers to star for Michigan defense (and everywhere else)

Michigan's pass-catchers should make life easy for new QB

Video: Michigan players on what Jim Harbaugh brings

Michigan State Spartans

Overlooked again, perennial-power Spartans don't sweat lack of hype

Connor Cook leaves big shoes to fill at QB for Michigan State

Malik McDowell and the Spartans defense look to wreak havoc

Video: Michigan State prepared for Big Ten season

Minnesota Golden Gophers

Tracy Claeys continues Gophers on path Jerry Kill started

Can Gophers' Mitch Leidner live up to surprising NFL Draft buzz?

Video: Leidner, Claeys talk Gopher QB's NFL Draft buzz

Nebraska Cornhuskers

After six-win season, can Huskers find normalcy under Mike Riley?

Can Tommy Armstrong better get the ball to Huskers' offensive weapons?

Northwestern Wildcats

To contend for title, Northwestern needs to win the big games

In Year 2 as starter, Clayton Thorson looks to improve Cats' passing game

Lighter load for Justin Jackson could prove big for Northwestern

Losing several starters, Northwestern reloads on defense

Video: Pat Fitzgerald talks about Northwestern's 2016 season

Video: Fitzgerald reacts to nine-game Big Ten schedule

Video: Who is Chicago's Big Ten team? Fitz responds

Ohio State Buckeyes

Even after losing so much to NFL, Buckeyes don't rebuild, they reload

J.T. Barrett primed for big year as the Buckeyes' only QB

Can Mike Weber follow in Ezekiel Elliott's footsteps?

Video: J.T. Barrett talks talented but inexperienced Buckeyes

Penn State Nittany Lions

Penn State hopes to see sanctions-impacted decisions pay off

Is Penn State's Saquon Barkley already the Big Ten's best back?

Will new coordinator, new QB fix ailing Penn State offense?

Video: James Franklin: "I think you're going to see progress"

Video: Penn State thinks Saquon Barkley is the best running back

Purdue Boilermakers

Can Darrell Hazell turn optimism into results at Purdue?

Will another season bring another QB quandary for Purdue?

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

In Chris Ash, Rutgers has the change it desperately needed

Janarion Grant an all-around weapon for Rutgers

Chris Ash using Meyer, Bielema influence at Rutgers

Video: Hamilton: Chris Ash "everything you look for in a coach"

Wisconsin Badgers

Healthy Corey Clement ready to break out with Badgers' experienced RB corps

Badgers face daunting schedule in and out of conference

Can Badgers continue defensive success under new coordinator?

Video: Vince Biegel on Badgers' defensive coordinator switch

Viewers' Choice: Vote for High School Lites Week 2 Coverage

Viewers' Choice: Vote for High School Lites Week 2 Coverage

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.

Big Ten preview: The @CSNBigTen preseason All-Big Ten Team

Big Ten preview: The @CSNBigTen preseason All-Big Ten Team

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.

Offense

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

Defense

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

Special teams

Return specialist: Janarion Grant, Rutgers

Kicker: Griffin Oakes, Indiana

Punter: Cameron Johnston, Ohio State