Joel Quenneville: NHL Was Wrong to Fine the Chicago Blackhawks Coach

Al DanielCorrespondent IIApril 20, 2012

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 17:  Head coach Joel Quenneville of the Chicago Blackhawks tries to get referees to stop play after an injury to Marian Hossa of the Blackhawks against the Phoenix Coyotes in Game Three of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the United Center on April 17, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

It’s been a pretty dark week for Windy City hockey. Since Tuesday, the Chicago Blackhawks have lost two straight home playoff games, but not before losing a key player in Marian Hossa to an injury inflicted by notorious cheap-shot artist Raffi Torres.

And as of Thursday, Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville has literally paid for Torres’ injurious indiscretion and the officiating crew’s failure to issue an on-ice penalty.

After Torres left his feet to paste Hossa to the ice right before the Chicago bench during Game 3, Quenneville said (per the Chicago Tribune), “I saw exactly what happened. It was right in front of me and all four (officials) missed it. The refereeing tonight was a disgrace.”

Odds are only a Phoenix Coyotes chauvinist would disagree with that assessment. Well, that and a zealous, thin-skinned, unconditional apologist for the NHL’s zebras.

Case in point: Quenneville incurred a $10,000 fine for his remarks. Instead of taking the situation into consideration and declaring it will make sure mistakes like that of Monday’s officials are never repeated, the NHL took action against the Chicago skipper’s right to air a legitimate grievance.

The NHL should be given some benefit of the doubt here, but all things considered, it is hard not to construe this disciplinary action as arrogant and puerile.

How dare anyone ever criticize an authority figure? the league implicitly states.

This author rebuts, how dare the league make the victimized party in a great judicial mishap another one of the bad guys just to protect the referees’ nonexistent persona of perfection?

It’s not as if Quenneville peddled a baseless conspiracy theory a la John Tortorella after this year’s Winter Classic.

And it’s not as if Quenneville said anything advocating retaliatory action. He did not take the Alain Vigneault route and say, in reference to Torres, “Someday he’s going to get it…And if the league doesn’t care, somebody else will.”

How much more egregious can a wrong message get? A coach whose player has been bumped out of a commission by a suspendable, non-hockey hit can go ahead and threaten eye-for-eye justice. But he can’t state a plain fact about the refs failing to penalize the hit in question.

Quenneville’s remarks should have inspired the NHL to boldly stare down its gross officiating error and strive to shore up its means of catching on-ice criminals.

Six seconds after Torres laid Hossa out in the Chicago half of the neutral zone, play stopped on Coyotes property when Brandon Bollig was issued a roughing minor and 10-minute misconduct.

What exactly was Bollig’s misdeed? It was chasing after Torres, of course.

That’s right. Hossa was carried off the ice to the hospital as a result of Torres’ head-hunting while Bollig was being escorted to the sin bin for the exact same reason.

Torres? His team enjoyed the power play and he carried on with his business until league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan finally had a chance to serve justice the next morning.

Unthinkable. Absolutely unthinkable.

Even if you did not see Torres’ hit when it happened or even if you did not witness the aftermath on television, the NHL’s official play-by-play sheet sums it up smoothly. At the 11:51 mark of Tuesday’s first period, there was a stoppage for “player injury,” a roughing minor to Bollig drawn by Torres, a TV timeout and a 10-minute misconduct to Bollig.

So, Hossa was down and out, his teammate was patently peeved at one of the league’s more controversial players and there was a break in the action lasting about 90 seconds, followed by at least three more minutes of attending to Hossa.

All that, and referees Stephen Walkom and Ian Walsh still could not find the time to put two and two together? They could not think to step into the scorekeepers’ box and take a look at what TV audiences were seeing again and again before and after the break?

It would have been so simple it’s not even funny. Torres should have been ejected and his team should have been subject to a five-minute penalty kill.

In turn, the Blackhawks should have at least had a chance to bust open what was then a scoreless tie in the early phases of a third game in a deadlocked series.

Instead, Phoenix won a seesaw battle in overtime, 3-2, to raise a 2-1 upper hand in the series. The Coyotes augmented that lead to a commanding 3-1 with another sudden-death victory at the United Center Thursday night.

That Game 4 drawback for Chicago came within hours of Quenneville being reminded that, when it comes to assessing the NHL’s officiating, no good point goes unpunished.