The record didn't matter anymore.
With 18 minutes left to go in the game for the Chicago Blackhawks to tie the NHL's record for longest point streak to start the season, the United Center's faithful stood in stunned silence. The thoughts of 'not again' spread throughout the stadium.
There, lying motionless face down on the ice, was Marian Hossa. He'd been hit in the head, again. Another needless cheap shot. This time by Vancouver Canuck Jannik Hansen in Tuesday night's game.
Hossa was lying in nearly the same spot where he was less than 10 months ago after he was viciously hit in the head by Phoenix Coyote Raffi Torres in Game 3 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals last season. Torres skated right towards Hossa, with the puck nowhere in sight, leaped off his skates into the air and drove the force of his entire body into Hossa's head. Hossa suffered a bad concussion, missed the rest of the playoffs, and wasn't even medically cleared to play until this December.
And here we were again. After two minutes, Hossa rose to his knees and a cheer of relief came from Blackhawks fans. They didn't know if Hossa was alright, but at the very least he wasn't going to be carted off the ice like last time.
Chicago Tribune's Blackhawks reporter Chris Kuc observed the postgame comments from both Hossa offenders when he tweeted:
"Coyotes' Raffi Torres, April 2012: "I felt it was a hockey play." Canucks' Jannik Hansen, February 2013: "It was a hockey play.""
The Blackhawks have had enough of this nonsense. They've heard the whispers the last few years that they were soft. This year they've made it a point that it would be different. This year something would be done about it.
After Torres completed his 21 game suspension for the hit, his third game back this season was against the Blackhawks, as karma would have it. And it didn't take long for the Blackhawks to make a "Hockey Play" on him. Hawks winger Jamal Mayers came off the bench right for Torres, and started a fight minutes into the game. Message sent.
Against the San Jose Sharks earlier this year, Center Jonathan Toews sought retribution for Joe Thornton's hit on him from last year, and started a fight with a surprised Thornton.
"Johnny just asked me to fight, and I was kind of shocked," Thornton said. "I said 'sure.' That's how it went."
And Tuesday night, as Hossa lay motionless, Toews immediately went after the first Canuck he could find. Message sent.
Chicago Tribune's David Haugh, did a great job as always documenting the Hawks transformation:
"...The Hawks had earned their league-wide reputation for being highly skilled but softer than pond ice on a 40-degree day...the most telling highlights for the league's best team have had little to do with goals or assists. The Hawks always could turn your head with trick-shot quality puck-handling. Yet the most memorable sequences have been more ow-inspiring than awe-inspiring, which goes a long way in a hockey dressing room."
No one's advocating the need to purposely hurt another player. But the Blackhawks have sent a message this year that there will be a price to pay from this point forward.
The Hawks went on to win the game against the Canucks 4-3 in a shootout.
They're now one game away this Friday night from breaking the all-time NHL record for the longest point streak to start the season.
That's one heck of a "Hockey Play" too.