By suspending Raffi Torres 25 games for his hit on Marian Hossa, the NHL delivered a strong message. Now the league needs to follow its own punishment guidelines for other hits.
The message was unmistakably clear.
Now if only the NHL will listen to itself.
The league announced early Saturday afternoon that Raffi Torres was suspended for 25 games for his hit on Marian Hossa in Game 3 of the Phoenix Coyotes-Chicago Blackhawks Western Conference Quarterfinal series.
Midway through the first period of a game the Coyotes would go on to win 3-2 in overtime, Torres charged towards Hossa, who had his back turned, and leapt into the air before driving his shoulder into the Chicago star’s head. Hossa crumpled to the ice and his head bounced sickeningly off the unforgiving surface. He was immobilized and taken off the ice on a stretcher.
Torres was not penalized for the hit. Hossa’s teammate, Brandon Bollig, received a two-minute minor for roughing Torres and a 10-minute misconduct for pummeling Torres. After the game, Torres claimed his hit was a “hockey play.”
Sure, and the Civil War was a slight miscommunication.
As part of the league’s statement, NHL Vice President for Player Safety Brendan Shanahan explained the rationale used to determine the suspension.
“This is a violation of three NHL rules – interference, charging and illegal check to the head. In addition to the fact that three separate NHL rules were violated with this one hit, two other factors were critical in determining the appropriate length of suspension,” began the release.
“First, this violent and dangerous hit caused a severe injury. Second, Torres not only is a repeat offender as defined by the CBA, his extensive Supplemental Discipline history consists mainly of acts very similar to this one – including two this season.
“Despite knowing that Hossa no longer has the puck, Torres decides to finish his check past the amount of time when Hossa is eligible to be bodychecked. That is a violation of the Interference rule. While we acknowledge the circumstances of certain hits may cause a player’s skates to come off the ice, on this hit, Torres launches himself into the air before making contact. This is a violation of the Charging rule.
“The position of Hossa’s head does not change just prior to or simultaneous with this hit. The onus, therefore, is on Torres not to make it the principal point of contact. By leaping, Torres makes Hossa’s head the principal point of contact. That is a violation of the Illegal Check to the Head rule.”
In separate statements, Phoenix general manager Don Maloney said the suspension was “very severe for Raffi and our hockey club,” while Torres noted he “will take the next few days whether or not to appeal the decision.”
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman would be the judge if Torres decides to plead his case.
Hours after the league was universally praised for the suspension — save for Coyotes television color analyst Tyson Nash, who termed the hit “as clean of a hit as you’re going to get,” during the Game 3 broadcast – Chris Neil leveled Brian Boyle with a shoulder to the head in the third period of the Ottawa Senators’ 2-0 win over the New York Rangers in Game 5 of that series.
In his postgame press conference, Rangers coach John Tortorella said Boyle was “concussed” and “out” before launching into an impassioned plea for Neil to be suspended.
“Exact same hit as Torres," Tortorella said. "He launches himself, head shot, puck’s at the goal line when he’s hit. The blueprint’s there. He’s a repeat offender, too. Not too much research to be done there."
Tortorella later added: “There’s a blueprint. It’s just a dangerous, dangerous, cheap hit. It’s the exact same play as Torres.”
Sportsnet analyst Nick Kypreos tweeted Sunday morning that Neil would not be punished for the hit.
The NHL’s consistent inconsistency with supplemental discipline is predictable and pathetic. It has created an atmospheric condition in which confusion reigns supreme. What is legal? What is illegal? What acts will the league punish? What acts will cause players to have to enact justice.
Is there any other administration in any endeavor whose employee code of conduct is so perplexing?
Ottawa center Zenon Konopka’s words after Game 2 of the Senators-Rangers series still haunt. Following the Senators’ 3-2 overtime win, a match that saw Matt Carkner jump Boyle, Konopka told reporters that there was “going to be a lot of stitches and blood before this series is over.”
He might as well have been talking about the playoffs.
Wondering in the aftermath of the Torres suspension if the NHL will rescind its $10,000 fine to Chicago coach Joel Quenneville for rightly terming the work of referees Ian Walsh and Stephen Walkom, and linesmen Brad Lazarowich and Jonny Murray in Game 3, “a disgrace.”
Just kidding. It is more important to the NHL that its players, coaches and executives offer empty platitudes instead of telling truths.
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