Jeff Carter of the Los Angeles Kings (in rear) poke checks the puck away from Raffi Torres of the San Jose Sharks, as goaltender Jonathan Quick of the Kings defends in the third period of Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Staples Center on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 in Los Angeles.
Photograph by: Jeff Gross, Getty Images
LOS ANGELES — The facts of the Raffi Torres case were plain, and Brendan Shanahan did an admirable job of laying them out on his explanatory video.
Jarret Stoll’s head was the principal point of contact. Torres did not take a path to the hit that would have made it body-to-body, but instead drove through the head area with his shoulder, and the pureness of the strike to the right side of Stoll’s head spun the 30-year-old Los Angeles Kings centre clean off the ice.
What the NHL’s department of player safety chief could not explain -- because it would have required about an hour of citing precedents, and another hour to say why many of them weren’t followed -- is how the league arrived at the length of the San Jose Sharks winger’s sentence.
Torres, a multiple repeat offender with a long list of priors, was suspended Thursday for the remainder of the first round of playoffs -- an indefinite number of games, between three and six, depending on the length of the series -- for his concussion-causing head blow in Tuesday’s Game 1.
It may turn out to be the perfect punishment if Stoll, who is rumoured to be in pretty bad shape, does not recover in time to rejoin the series, because by removing Torres from the mix, the league takes an eye for an eye. Each team loses a valuable forward, and the likelihood of retribution is greatly reduced without Torres on the ice.
If Stoll is out for the rest of the season, it’s not so perfect. He missed the last 30 games of the 2006-07 season with a concussion, so there is a distinct possibility this one could last a while.
The NHL Players Association believes the suspension is open to appeal because of its indefinite length, since Article 18.10 of the new collective bargaining agreement states: “As a general matter, a player who is suspended shall serve a specific number of games.”
Two things about that. “As a general matter” is another way of saying, “except in certain cases.” It gives the league all kinds of room to claim exceptional circumstances.
Also, it’s nit-picking, and if the NHLPA were to belabour the point, it would be exhibiting the same tone-deafness it has exhibited since time immemorial: seeming to be more concerned with Torres’s protection than Stoll’s.
Torres does have a right to appeal the suspension to commissioner Gary Bettman within 48 hours. If Bettman upholds the suspension, the question becomes: can he appeal it to a neutral independent arbitrator? That right, newly granted by the CBA, only comes with suspensions of six games or more, and this one might be six games, but it also might be three or four or five.
The NHL says yes. So this may drag on a bit.
But for now, he’s out, and given the history that Shanahan cited in his video -- Torres has three prior suspensions, in addition to three fines, all for predatory hits -- it’s a backward argument to say that the league is picking on him for his reputation.
He didn’t get the reputation as a prize in a cereal box. He earned it the old-fashioned way ... and its fallout.
• Below is the NHL video statement on the ruling:
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