I don't think the game has changed that much to be honest, I'm pretty young though(1989) so I can't say I lived through the 80's, but when I go back and look I see the same stuff.
For example how many games would Messier get now for this hit?
Or good ole' Dino
There are a ton more, hockey is a very emotional and physical game. And terrible incidents will happen, and I really don't think they are more common, they are probably just more exposed.
I'm not sure i really understand how those hits compare to a player suckering a ref........maybe that's just me.