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TV ratings, suspensions and concern all on the rise

Chicago Blackhawks left wing Andrew Brunette (15) shares words with Phoenix Coyotes goalie Mike Smith (41) after his scoring chance was stopped by Brunette in the 2nd period during Game 2 of the NHL Western Conference quarter-final hockey playoffs in Glendale, Ariz.

DARRYL WEBB/Reuters

The numbers keep going up, and they're not all good.

While TV viewership for the first-round of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs continues to soar so too has the number of player suspensions issued for on-ice nastiness.

Last season, there were four players suspended for a total of eight games through the entire four rounds of the postseason. The most serious punishment went to Vancouver Canucks' defenceman Aaron Rome, who got four games for a late hit on Boston Bruin forward Nathan Horton in the Stanley Cup final.

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This year, the count stands at seven suspensions for 15 games – and that doesn't include whatever Phoenix Coyote Raffi Torres is sure to get for levelling Chicago Blackhawk Marian Hossa on Tuesday night. Whatever Torres receives, one round of 2012 playoff action has virtually doubled the number of banishments from a year ago.

No wonder Phoenix goalie Mike Smith made some telling comments after watching Hossa wheeled off the ice on a stretcher.

"It's scary," Smith said after the Coyotes' Game 3 win. "And definitely your heart goes out to him and his family. Its past hockey; it's more than that. Hockey is a great sport, it's a fast sport, and injuries happen. But when you see something like that happen, it definitely makes you think.

"Obviously the head hits have to be cut down," added Smith, who was hit in Game 2 and saw his attacker, Chicago's Andrew Shaw, draw a three-game suspension. "It's people's livelihoods, not hockey. Obviously hockey, we all love to play it and it's a fun sport. But people have families and kids at home and wives. When you're getting into head and concussion issues around the whole league, you have to put a stop to it."

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