25 Games For Raffi Torres

Jonathan Willis
April 21 2012 10:14AM

The NHL has suspended Raffi Torres for 25 games as a result of his hit on Marian Hossa.

Ryan Batty, a writer for Copper & Blue, tweeted the following comment, which neatly encapsulated my own initial reaction:

25 games for Torres. Wow. If this is the NHL taking discipline serious great, if this is the NHL using him as a scapegoat not so great.

That’s the thing. I have no objection to a 25-game suspension for the type of hit that Torres threw, given the player’s track record and the injury sustained - if that’s the standard for players across the league. If Brendan Shanahan has decided that strict enforcement of this sort of hit is the way to go, I think that’s an entirely defensible position and one that will help reduce concussions around the league.

If, however, this is simply a one-time suspension to throw a bone to people concerned about concussions, it’s more difficult to justify. The NHL – even under Shanahan – has not enforced a consistent standard for these sorts of hits. Raffi Torres has a long track record of iffy hits, hammered a star player in a major market, is not a star player himself, plays in the NHL’s most insignificant market, and was roundly vilified by fans and the press prior to this suspension being announced. In short, he’s the perfect target for a massive suspension.

My hope is that this is the start of a more consistently vigilant Department of Player Safety. My fear is that the NHL’s hammering an easy target and will instead slink away when something else – say, Milan Lucic running Ryan Miller, or Shea Weber grabbing Henrik Zetterberg’s head and smashing it into the glass, or one of a hundred other things – happens. As it is, this is a hard suspension to reconcile with the NHL’s previous decisions. That doesn’t make it the wrong decision, unless it remains hard to reconcile with future decisions.

I strongly suspect that this is a one-off.  If it is, then the NHL made the wrong call.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 Lowetide
April 21 2012, 10:15AM
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Wow. I think the NHL just added together the totals they SHOULD have handed out to the other culprits and gave them all to Torres.

What a joke. Seriously.

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#2 Starving Student
April 21 2012, 10:19AM
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WOW! Somewhere Raffi Torres is calling Chris Simon for ideas of things to do with his time off!

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#3 Oilcruzer
April 21 2012, 10:21AM
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*Stands and Applauds Shanny*

It's about time.

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#4 Guy Lafleur
April 21 2012, 10:25AM
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Ridiculous , semi star players can do what they want but lets kick Raffi in the nuts , typical Shanahan and NHL justice for all LOL

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#5 mustang0304
April 21 2012, 10:28AM
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I think the NHL uses a system like the draft lottery, bunch of balls in a machine, whatever number comes out of the bingo machine thats how many game suspension the player receives. This league is a freaking joke.

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#6 Mark Loewen
April 21 2012, 10:29AM
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This is what the NHL should of been doing since the get go. If it was consistent i'd say great. Consistency is the key. I believe what they meant to say was there were 2 Key components in deciding what the discipline would be. 1) Injured a Star player. 2) Happened during the playoffs. 3) 2nd star player Torres hit that played for Chicago(see Seabrook). Thats strike 3 , your out 25 games.

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#7 Woodguy
April 21 2012, 10:32AM
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Lowetide wrote:

Wow. I think the NHL just added together the totals they SHOULD have handed out to the other culprits and gave them all to Torres.

What a joke. Seriously.

No kidding.

Take a player's head and ram it into the glass and your last name is Weber, no games!

Maybe Weber wasn't targeting the head when he took Z's head and smashed it into the glass.

Skate around like Ogi Ogilthorp and look to injure players and you are 40 goal scorer James Neal? 1 game.

I like rough, tough hockey, but intent to injure is just bush.

I think 10-12 games would have been right for Raffi.

25 is political.

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#8 Oilcruzer
April 21 2012, 10:36AM
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@Mustang

The league's a joke eh? Stop watching then.

The message is CLEAR. Fringe players can't take out stars. The smaller suspensions weren't sinking in.

The NHL (and NFL) HAVE TO DO THIS or they will be shut down by litigation.

I'll say it again.

If the players can't stop the headshots, then the league will cuz the owners don't want to pay billions in settlements.

And yes, the Keith suspension was a bad call... but this was a good one.

And it should go higher if the players still don't get it.

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#9 Oilcruzer
April 21 2012, 10:38AM
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This is good news for the under 6 footers. The days of Stevens and Hatcher are gone. If you don't like it, get a DVD of the 1990s cuz it ain't going the other way again. Ever.

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#11 Joel
April 21 2012, 10:47AM
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Obviously Shanny is sending a message to the rest of the league. The suspension is too long if you go by prior history of suspensions by Shanny.

This is significant money to the player and I think Shanny used this moment to tell the league enough is enough.

I really hope this suspensions works, and players will think twice.

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#12 Dave Lumley
April 21 2012, 10:48AM
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Holy double standards Batman!

One a hockey play with marginally late but hard hit by a bigger man vs a non hockey play of grabbing and slamming someones head in the boards. Which one had the intent to injure?

Unbelievable!

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#13 Starving Student
April 21 2012, 10:53AM
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@Oilcruzer

There wouldn't be an issue if the league cracked down on ALL players. Stars or not. If you're worried about litigation than 4th liner with a concussion (Raitis Ivannas) is the same as a star player with a concussion (Marc Savard). Any intent to injure should be dealt with a transparent message. Not tolerated.

The way discipline is doled out if absolutely rtarded right now!

-If a player isn't injured, there isn't really any supplementary punishment (Fines do nothing)

-If a player IS injured, there MAY be some supplementary punishment

-If a player is SERIOUSLY injured, there WILL be some supplementary punishment. Just not one that reflects the severity of said injury.

Want to crack down on injuries? Start making consistent calls. Here's another thought. GO TO THE QUIET ROOM. Hits are going to happen. They're going to injure. It's hockey.

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#14 Oilcruzer
April 21 2012, 10:53AM
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@JW

Respectfully disagree Willis. The lawyers are clearly talking to the NFL and NHL. There are moves after moves to limit exposure for head shots.

It's trending upward. It won't go back the other way.

Best example... look at the NFL. Moved up the kickoff line to the 35 last year? Why??? Check the effect? Reduced returns on kickoffs by 70%. Talk now that they may eliminate altogether. They haven't got their heads around punting yet tho.

Now, did they do that just cuz? No... someone said there's a storm a brewin' and if you don't take care of business, the business may disappear.

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#15 Dipstick
April 21 2012, 10:53AM
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He does have a long rap sheet of predatory hits to the head. He deserves a long suspension and if it continues, a complete ban from the league. That being said, the lack of suspension for other predatory hits (by stars) is completely unacceptable. Unless a standard is established for all players, these actions will not deter future incidents.

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#16 pelhem grenville
April 21 2012, 10:54AM
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...bad ginger

go to your room

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#17 Oilcruzer
April 21 2012, 10:54AM
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@Starvin Student

Agreed. One step at a time. Last year no one would have stomached the 25 game suspension. The next Keith incident will be dealt with different. Believe it.

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#18 Joel
April 21 2012, 10:55AM
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@Dave Lumley

Brendan Shanahan has been inconsistent but there is nothing you can do about it.

Lets hope this suspension leads to some consistency and puts fear into the NHL.

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#20 Oilcruzer
April 21 2012, 11:04AM
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Its too bad.

One of my favorite things to watch was "Jacked Up" (that disappeared quietly) vids on MNF.

We used to laugh at a guy wobbling to the bench and falling down after being crushed by Stevens Phaneuf and even Torres (remember 2006 v San Jose?)

But it isn't an equipment item - it's a simple matter of brain matter sloshing like jello in a blender against the insides of the skull from instantaneous acceleration / deceleration. Different equipment can protect from the brusing but it doesn't change the speed of the impact.

So you slow the game down or get rid of the impacts altogether.

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#21 Dave Lumley
April 21 2012, 11:08AM
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Smoke and mirrors in my mind. We will see what the next suspension brings.

My big concern is that it was still a marginal hockey play, "take your man out hard" / "finish your check" etc. Wrong message!! Not an elbow, not a stick just a hard marginally late hit by a big man who hits a star, not paying attention, very hard.

What is the message - Don't play hard nosed, hard hitting hockey????

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#22 Oilcruzer
April 21 2012, 11:09AM
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@Willis

Agreed 100%. Consistency is needed.

It'll be interesting to see how the NHLPA views this.

They have a catch 22. On one hand, one of their members is the new posterchild of things to come. At great expense to Raffi.

On the other hand, this is for the good of the players. (and the game... no one wants stars out)

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#23 mustang0304
April 21 2012, 11:10AM
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@Joel

I wonder why,Duncan Keith wasn't the message, or Shea Weber? If he nailed these two guys with huge suspensions then the message would be delivered to everyone. As of right now guys like Torres and Andy Sutton are in big trouble...not the stars of the game, they can pretty much do what they want.

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#24 Matt Henderson
April 21 2012, 11:16AM
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@Oilcruzer

Stevens was my absolute favourite player growing up. His hits were legendary. I also thought they were largely legal and even today many would be legal. He did not generally explode upwards into the heads of his targets. More often than not he seemed to stay level and deliver a solid shoulder. His targets were hunched over, but back in those days that was your problem if you were cutting through the middle with your head at Stevens' shoulder height.

The Torres hit di not in any way remind me of a Stevens hit. He came at him and exploded upwards at the head of Hossa for no reason at all. He flew in the air for pete's sake. The hit would have been just as devastating had he hit him shoulder to chest.

25 games is a long time, and I tend to agree that it's a joke for all the reasons suggested. But Torres was playing with fire. It should have been obvious to everyone that somebody was gonna get the hammer soon.

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#25 Starving Student
April 21 2012, 11:18AM
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@Oilcruzer

I don't think you have to do either.

The speed of the game makes hits more dangerous, but if the mentality of clean hits with appropriate medical care is in place there game should prosper!

The NHL and Owners need to start treating players in games the same way they would want their players treated at the Olympics! If Crosby gets knocked out with a clean hit in Sochi, I'm pretty sure Lemieux would have Crosby evaluated 10 times over and then 10 times more before playing another shift. Same thing with Stamkos, Bergergon or any other player! That's the same mentality teams shoudl have towards ALL players whether it be Peckham, Laperriere (not to confused with Lapierre) or Glencross.

Then protocols are already in place for when a player should be taken out of games. The problem is that the NHL and teams are not willing to abide by it. Want to get serious? Have an arena doctors not with either team that dictates when a player needs to go to a "quiet room" and how long they need to stay there. No bias either way.

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#26 Kent Wilson
April 21 2012, 11:20AM
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Agreed on all counts JW. I wrote a disturbingly similar article when Cooke got the book thrown at him last March.

The good news about that suspension is it seemed to straighten up Cooke. The bad news is, the NHL pretty much stopped doling out similarly tough discipline since (aside from a few tougher than average suspensions in the pre-season).

So it looks like really hard sentences are reserved for guys who have a history and who are easily vilified by both fans and other players.

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#27 Oilcruzer
April 21 2012, 11:22AM
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@Arch Guy

Agreed Arch. He did it by the book. Even the Lindros hit was legal.

With the hit to head and vulnerable position interpretations... that hit is gone from today's game.

And for the better. We never got to see all of Lindros real career, or a true Paul Kariya or what could Pat Lafontaine have managed with his career or what kind of player would Boyd Devereaux (that hit nearly made me vomit) have become, but for head injuries from legal hits?

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#28 mustang0304
April 21 2012, 11:25AM
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Oilcruzer wrote:

@Mustang

The league's a joke eh? Stop watching then.

The message is CLEAR. Fringe players can't take out stars. The smaller suspensions weren't sinking in.

The NHL (and NFL) HAVE TO DO THIS or they will be shut down by litigation.

I'll say it again.

If the players can't stop the headshots, then the league will cuz the owners don't want to pay billions in settlements.

And yes, the Keith suspension was a bad call... but this was a good one.

And it should go higher if the players still don't get it.

Stop watching are you Gary Bettman or something?

They need some consistency, thats what I was saying.

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#29 SteadyEd
April 21 2012, 11:26AM
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I think that Mr. Shanahan got this one right. Raffi has been deliberately causing injury for a long time. I hope that this represents the pushing of the reset button on what his (and the leagues) intentions where at the start of the season. (One can only imagine the pressures that he experienced through the year from some of the old school jack-asses that think that hockey is a gladiator sport.) Certainly we all agree that respect and sportsmanship has to be strictly mandated. You only have to see the smug look on a 12 year olds face after he's knocked someone unconscious to know that the NHL has to clean things up. There is a trickle-down effect.

Easy enough to say but it's a difficult problem to solve. One thing that I think that the NHL should consider is drastically increasing the fines for first time offenders. This way you can punish the player without punishing the franchise. Another thing that the NHL should consider is to stop taking into account the injury (or lack of injury) in their rulings. Make the call on the intention of the play. Finally, as fans (and pundits) I think that we all have to take a break from referee bashing. Like it or not calling a came IS a subjective endeavour that DOES take into account the history between teams and players and IS influenced by directorates. The officials are the keepers of the game and should be celebrated.

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#30 Dan the Man
April 21 2012, 11:27AM
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This was a perfect chance for the NHL to say, look at everything we are doing to put an end to hits like this, aren't we awesome! And they took full advantage, they will continue to make examples of players like Torres, and that's great but the same rules should apply to all offenders.

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#31 Matt Henderson
April 21 2012, 11:32AM
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@Oilcruzer

To me, concussions will always be an issue in contact sports. Nobody wants to see careers shortened, but as long as hitting is in the game then its gonna happen. I dont have guilt over that. Its a risk they all know.

That said, you cant have guys going out of their way to hit heads like Torres did. If Hossa is handling the puck and hes hunched over to the point where Torres doesnt have to change the position of his shoulder and Hossa's head gets the brunt of the hit then I'm fine with that. Totally different story for me when a guy is actually head hunting.

Torres was labelled a head hunter, had prior suspensions within the past year, then did it again to a star player who needed to be stretchered off the ice while Bettman was in attendance. Thats just stupid hockey.

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#32 Joel
April 21 2012, 11:33AM
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Sadly like most things some players are more equal then others. Stars in the league are assets to the NHL . They are running a business. There are double standards everywhere you look.

I'm hoping this suspension will make all players think twice.

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#33 Oilcruzer
April 21 2012, 11:36AM
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@SteadyEd

You raise a good question about waiting for assessing the effect of the injury.

One thing I worry about is diving or embellishing... and time confirms that a bit.

If we can suspend players after the games over when they didn't get a penalty...

...then we should also suspend players after reviewing the game and finding they were faking it.

Both are infractions which means breaking the rules which means cheating.

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#34 Rama Lama
April 21 2012, 11:42AM
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Just like officiating at the start of the year.......it changes over time. I suspect that there will be two set of rules based on star status, one for the average players and one for star players.

The consistency will never be there and we will still be talking about this for years.......that much you can count on!

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#35 Oilcruzer
April 21 2012, 11:44AM
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Concussions will always be an issue. In MMA and Boxing as well as NFL or NHL and even Soccer.

(ya, Soccer's a bad one too - unbelieveable as it sounds...research it...)

The issue to the leagues is whether their sport is doing what it can to reasonably protect the players. That's the test.

The player still gets to make the choice on whether to play the game.

Martial arts, one one one, you sign up knowing that your job is to target the head and that's what the other guy is trying to do, and you know what will happen.

Big Mac also signed up knowing that is what his role was - give and take shots to the head... but Hemsky didn't sign up for that... and that's the problem.

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#36 Dave Lumley
April 21 2012, 11:44AM
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Kent, I don't buy the Matt Cooke suspension scenario. What happened was that Mario read him the riot act when Mario was on his high horse about head shots and the worst offender in the league was one of his own guys.

Mario fixed Matt, just like Phoenix can fix Raffi. Phoenix can bench Torres for more or less than 25 games if they don't like how he plays, but they problem is is that they do.

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#37 Rain Dogs
April 21 2012, 11:59AM
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I don't see where the problem is.

The NHL is prioritizing two issues with the suspensions:

1. Significance of Injury 2. Prior History

If you don't like that, that's fair, but it doesn't make sense to compare this suspension to Weber's given it has neither of those factors.

Weber has no history, there was no injury.

Torres has 5 suspensions... 5! Makes sense to me.

Repeat offenders SHOULD be punished more severely. I'm on the fence about injury vs intent (I understand both arguments).

This was 3 violations in one hit. a Five time repeat offender, AND a major injury.

Where's the problem? And don't say consistency... what other violation has three penalties, a five time offender and a major concussion?

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#38 FastOil
April 21 2012, 12:11PM
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Dave Lumley wrote:

Smoke and mirrors in my mind. We will see what the next suspension brings.

My big concern is that it was still a marginal hockey play, "take your man out hard" / "finish your check" etc. Wrong message!! Not an elbow, not a stick just a hard marginally late hit by a big man who hits a star, not paying attention, very hard.

What is the message - Don't play hard nosed, hard hitting hockey????

Don't destroy the guy if you're coming in late. Yes, they have time to change what they are doing and know the difference. One proof of this is most players don't hit like Torres but still hit.

It comes back to respect for other players. A solid hit can be delivered without doing what Torres did.

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#39 They're $hittie
April 21 2012, 12:29PM
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SO this is part of a repeat offender thing. Good. These douches need to be out of the league or need to attend the Matt Cooke school of career turnarounds (cant believe I just propped Matt Cooke).

Anyways if this is what repeat offenders get good. Problem is though it kinda seems like everyone gets a freebee.

Also not saying what weber did was not intent to injure or saying its acceptable. But these two players were in a scrum and not traveling at 20 mph each. Zetterberg was not in a super vulnerable position. And all honesty I would rather have my head pushed into the boards when I have some resistance to it and the means to fight back while wearing a helmet than take a cross check in the back when i dont see it coming or have protection there.

Why are these not suspensions.

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#40 SteadyEd
April 21 2012, 12:32PM
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My point about assessing the consequence of an infraction was that a garden variety cross-check should be 2min. regardless of whether the player that got checked is injured or not. By the same token a cross-check that is deemed to have "intention" should be 5 min. Again, it shouldn't matter if the player that is checked is injured. It should be the action that is called not the effect. A minor is a minor and a major is a major and referees should feel free to make that judgement on the ice. The leagues job should be to uphold the referees decision.

Take the 'drawing-blood' 4 min. high-sticking call for instance. It's silly. The same accident gets called two different ways because the player that is high-sticked has thin skin. Having to go over and peer up someones nose or in their mouth to make a call diminishes the job of the referee. A minor for an accident. A minor + a 10min. misconduct for carelessness. A major is for intent. Empower the refs and they (and the rules that they represent) will be respected.

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#41 Rob...
April 21 2012, 12:34PM
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~I hear it was only going to be 12 games, but they took into account his Halloween costume from last year and decided to go double +1.~

As easy as it is to blame Torres for continuing to play 'that way', I don't know if I'd expect anything more from Raffi. The guy has been told since 2006 that it was his hit on Michalek that was the playoff changer for the Oilers. He has been trying to recapture that level of notoriety ever since.

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#42 SteadyEd
April 21 2012, 12:36PM
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Does Weber have priors? If yes, than the NHL made a grave mistake. If no, than in my opinion the best consequence would have been a 2 game suspension and a $100 000 fine. (I know it wasn't an option)

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#43 DCR
April 21 2012, 12:48PM
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Given his history, I don't have a problem with Torres getting 25 games. It's more than I expected (10-15 games) but I can see why it was assessed.

As with many others, I am more concerned with consistency and the probability of this being scapegoating more than anything.

Even considering Raffi's history, this wasn't five times as bad as Duncan Keith's hit. So either Raffi got too many or Duncan got too few. As for the Shea Weber incident - I think the intent to injure there was much worse and he got fined approximately three-one-hundredths of one percent of his annual salary.

To put that in perspective - Shea Weber's fine was the equivalent of a FIVE-DOLLAR fine to someone working full time at the US Federal minimum wage of $7.25/hr.

Think about that.

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#44 Tim in Kelowna
April 21 2012, 01:06PM
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I'm fine with the 25 game suspension- Torres needed to be sent a message. This is not a 'new standard' for those that deliver head shots, it's just what had to be done to get through to a dangerous, repeat offender. Torres was entering Chris Simon territory.

I do think that the NHL needs to be much more consistent From the preseason through to the last game of the SCF. Why doesn't the NHL just lay out a framework for suspensions much like MLB does with steroid use. For example:

First violation: x game suspension Second violation: 2x game suspension Third violation: 5x game suspension

I realize there are other variables involved with these on-ice incidents, but having a framework in place would make it clear to the players what kind of suspension they can expect from delivering a headshot.

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#45 John Andress
April 21 2012, 01:14PM
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Dan the Man wrote:

This was a perfect chance for the NHL to say, look at everything we are doing to put an end to hits like this, aren't we awesome! And they took full advantage, they will continue to make examples of players like Torres, and that's great but the same rules should apply to all offenders.

No. The "perfect" chance was Shea Weber. By suspending him they could have sent that message that hits to the head are unacceptable no matter who you are or where you play. They chose to pass on that and hammer the sitting duck. The NHL has achieved nothing but telling the players that a double standard exists. Don't believe me? Watch the earlier games in the present Flyers/Penguins series and explain to me how Malkin is still playing. He is running around like a lunatic and high hitting everyone in sight. Why? because he knows he can. Wishy-washy NHL wheel of Justice will never stop at his number because he is who he is.

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#46 Time Travelling Sean
April 21 2012, 01:21PM
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If you don't get suspended because of having no prior record of suspensions how do you get suspended?

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#47 Derzie
April 21 2012, 02:12PM
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NHL discipline is a complete and utter farce once again. Park your Torres hatred at the door, this did NOT warrant 25 games. Repeat offender or not. This call basically guarantees that there will be a work stoppage this fall. What a mess.

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#48 D
April 21 2012, 02:37PM
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I would just like to throw this out there as something I'm pretty sure the NHL considers when handing out suspensions: one of the reasons why there may appear to be disparate enforcement is that these actions cross into the realm of labour law. While I am sure the collective bargaining agreement (which I have not carefully examined) has provisions that override certain areas of labour law, at the end of the day, the NHL has to deal with the laws of every state in which they conduct business. For example, in California, employee rights are closer to those of say, Europe than those of other U.S. states. If the incident happened in California, with a California team, maybe the NHL has to take a different approach than with an incident that happened in Illinois, with an Arizona team. No matter which way you cut it, the Torres situation boils down to a labour issue. The NHL has taken away Torres’ opportunity to provide labour and earn an income.

I guarantee that the NHL has a team of lawyers working behind the scenes advising Mr. Shanahan on every player who appears before him. One of the questions the lawyers likely advise the league upon is “what is the probability that a suspension could be overturned in court?” That would be a worse outcome from a business standpoint than handing out a suspension that may appear too lenient. The minute the NHL loses its unfettered right to discipline players, it loses a major area of control with relation to its employees. But if the NHL has that power, it must be judicious in the exercise of that power; otherwise it will lose that power. In the case of Torres, the NHL may feel that there is little risk of a 25 game suspension being overturned, even though the Torres infraction may have been very similar to that of other players who received a substantially smaller suspension.

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#49 ilovetorres
April 21 2012, 03:07PM
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@Oilcruzer

You have no right adding the NFL to this list. The NFL and NFL Commish know how to run a league. Get your head outta your ass, the NHL is slowly collapsing being ran by GMs in the ears of the suits.

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#50 Dutchscooter
April 21 2012, 03:07PM
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What hasn't been mentioned is that 25 games is exactly the number of games Phoenix would have if they made it to Game 7 of the Cup Finals. So, Torres got suspended, essentially, for the remainder of the playoffs no matter how far the 'Yotes get.

That's it.

Don't read too much into what is not there.

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