The 2012 playoffs had more than their fair share of controversial hits, but none sparked more emotions than Raffi Torres’ blow to the head of Marian Hossa in Game 3 of the Phoenix Coyotes’ first round series against the Chicago Blackhawks:
Hossa was diagnosed with a concussion and was only recently medically cleared to play. But in the immediate aftermath of the hit, it remained to be seen how rookie disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan would react.
A suspension seemed all-but inevitable, even though Torres wasn’t assessed a penalty on the play. TSN’s Bob McKenzie called the hit “illegal on so many levels.”
“It is charging,” McKenzie said. “It is interference (late). It is a targeted head shot where he launches upward. The hit caused significant injury. The player (Torres) is a repeat offender in every sense of the term.”
Chicago’s Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy even weighed in, calling Torres’ actions “borderline criminal.”
Shanahan ended up making an example out of Torres by handing him a precedent-setting 25-game suspension that, thanks to the lockout, still hasn’t been fully served.
Here’s Shanahan’s explanation of his initial decision:
Of course, that’s not the end of the story. While the NHL-owned Coyotes supported Shanahan’s decision, the NHLPA rose to Torres’ defense, claiming that the length of the suspension was “excessive and arbitrary.”
The union even reportedly asserted that Torres’ hearing “violated the very basic requirements of a fair process.”
The NHLPA appeal went to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who ultimately decided to reduce Torres’ suspension by four games. That means that there’s only eight contests left on his punishment when you factor in the 13 playoff games that he’s already missed.
Torres was getting ready to go into this season with the goal of trying to change his ways. Someday this lockout will end, he’ll serve what’s left on his suspension, and then get that chance.