(The Blaze/AP) A blindside hit, a history of violence and a league-wide crackdown on rough play has earned Phoenix Coyotes forward Raffi Torres one of the longest suspensions in NHL history.
Torres was suspended 25 games by the league Saturday and will miss the rest of the playoffs for a late hit that resulted in Chicago's Marian Hossa being taken off the ice on a stretcher.
"I think it's a precedent," Chicago center Brendan Morrison said Saturday, a few hours before Phoenix tried to clinch its first-round series over the Blackhawks. "We've been talking about it for so long over the course of the last couple of years and there has been more suspensions, but the message isn't getting through to guys. I don't know how it can't get through after this."
On Saturday, Torres said: "My main concern is for the healthy recovery of Marian Hossa, and I hope that he will be able to get back on the ice to compete again soon. I sincerely regret injuring Marian...Regarding the severity of the suspension issued, I will take the next few days to decide whether or not to appeal the decision."
If the 25 games of his suspension aren't exhausted during the playoffs-- the Coyotes would need to play four straight seven-game series to complete the suspension-- the ban carries over into the next regular season.
Moreover, as a repeat offender, Torres would forfeit $21,341 in salary for every regular-season game he sits out.
"The ruling is very severe for Raffi and our hockey club," Coyotes general manager Don Maloney said in a statement. "Raffi plays a hard, physical game yet this contact crossed the line on what is acceptable in our game today. We hope Marian Hossa makes a full and speedy recovery as we all enjoy watching him perform."
Coyotes coach Dave Tippett remarked: "The league has made its decision and there is nothing we can do about it now...We deal with it as a club and Raffi has to deal with it, but our focus is solely on what we had to do tonight. It's an unfortunate incident, but the league has had its say and we move on."
Here is video of the hit, courtesy of CSN Chicago:
Torres' hit seemingly violated three rules: interference, charging and illegal check to the head. In determining the length of the suspension, league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan noted that Torres caused severe injury--Hossa lay on the ice for several minutes before being taken away on a stretcher, and hasn't appeared again in the series.
"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 body-checked," league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan said.
"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." He continued, "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."
Shanahan has been criticized for being inconsistent in doling out punishment in what's been the most penalty-filled playoffs since 1998 - 18 penalty minutes per game, according to STATS LLC.
"You never know what they're calling," Coyotes defenseman Derek Morris said. "You don't know what's going to be a hard hit, what's going to be a penalty. There's been plays you look at and you think, well that one should have been more, that one should have been less. You just don't know how it's going to be called so I don't know how you can adjust the game."