It didn't take long. Thirty seconds into his first shift against the Blackhawks on Thursday night, Raffi Torres of the Coyotes was challenged to a fight by Jamal Mayers, who came right off the bench to start throwing punches.
Torres, of course, had concussed Chicago's Marian Hossa during the teams' first-round playoff series last spring with a blatantly illegal hit to the head that put the high-scoring winger out for the rest of the postseason. Torres was handed a 25-game suspension, among the longest in league history. (It was later reduced to 21 after an appeal.)
"I think it was pretty much known it was coming," Mayers told reporters after the game. "Obviously, we have a pretty good memory of what happened ... It still doesn't excuse what happened, but give him credit — he was willing to go."
As fights go, this one wasn't much, but it was clearly retribution, one of those episodes that are unique to hockey, and that those who don't follow or like the NHL can't understand. But for a large segment of the league's fans -- and also for the players and those who administer the league -- hockey's self-policing mechanism is as essential to the professional game as a beautifully executed two-on-one break that ends with a goal.
For critics, the answer is easy: Just ban fighting.
In reality, it's not that easy.
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