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updated: 4/1/2014 8:30 PM

No defense for not defending Hawks' Toews

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  • If captains such as the Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews aren't defended, the NHL isn't the NHL anymore.

      If captains such as the Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews aren't defended, the NHL isn't the NHL anymore.
    Associated Press

 
 

A debate has raged as the town waits for a health report on Jonathan Toews.

Actually the debate should be whether the issue is even debatable.

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It isn't.

Sure the Blackhawks should have retaliated against the Penguins for Brooks Orpik taking liberties with Toews.

No penalty was called. The hit might have been clean. It might have been dirty. It might have been within the rules but unnecessary.

None of that matters. Toews came up hurting. If his injury is serious it'll jeopardize the Hawks' championship aspirations.

Toews is the Hawks' best player. He is their captain. He is their leader. He is their conscience. He is everything that they need him to be whenever they need him to be it.

Hockey protocol is that teammates defend the teammate with the "C" on his sweater whenever an opponent runs at him. On this occasion the Hawks did very little.

Hockey commentators both locally and nationally were outraged by the lack of reaction to Orpik's action. Most of the critics are former NHL players who have scars where current players have wounds.

Yes, these guys are old school in an age of new school that has reduced cherished rituals of just about every sport.

Look, old school or new, hockey players might as well play in tank tops, shorts and sandals if they no longer take offense to their captain being violated.

These aren't career clergymen out there on the ice inclined to turn the other cheek. Nor are they sports writers in workrooms where namby meets pamby meets Bambi.

Hockey players are hockey players. It's difficult to compare them to any other occupations except maybe lion tamer and oil-fire fighter.

Certain principles are sacred in all sports, and protecting that "C" is one of them.

Another is an offensive lineman shoving a defensive lineman who gave the quarterback the business. Another is Team A knocking down Team B's best hitter after Team B knocked down Team A's best hitter.

Mess with an NHL captain and you or your captain or your best player gets messed with.

A longtime sports columnist asked at the White Sox' opener, "The Hawks had to do something about it, didn't they?"

The question was rhetorical. He knew the answer. After all, intimidation and retaliation and retribution still reside in the NHL.

Those activities are embedded in the league's DNA. The game is becoming sports' last bastion of barbarism.

When that ceases to be the case, hockey isn't hockey anymore. They might as well roll out a soccer ball and let goal scorers shoot at a bigger net.

The Hawks aren't weak. No team wins two Stanley Cups in four years without physical, mental and emotional strength.

Even some of their most adept players -- their core players -- will leap into the fray when it's called for.

So, no, the Hawks aren't soft. But they aren't all that hard either. They win with skill and skating rather than roughing and fighting.

That shouldn't mean that the Hawks are exempt from seeking revenge when an Orpik rips into a Toews.

Something becomes clear when head hits are deemed unacceptable: The rest of the body is fair game regardless of who's at fault, the captain for being careless or the opponent for being reckless.

A little stick work is appropriate. Is that too Gordie Howe-ish or Stan Mikita-esque for you youngbloods? Then follow tennis where there are rules against racket abuse.

A little whack to the Penguins' privates might not have helped the Hawks win that game, but it might make future opponents reluctant to use Jonathan Toews for target practice.

Go ahead and debate that if you want, but I'll have to assume you're wrong if you disagree.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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