Explanation of hockey suspension reveals larger problem

21 Apr

Marian Rossa of the Chicago Blackhawks left the ice strapped to a stretcher. Raffi Torres of the Phoenix Coyotes walked away without even a penalty.

Only upon later review did Torres receive a 25-game suspension, the latest of six incidents since 2007 which resulted in “supplemental discipline” for Torres.

Take a look at the video NHL Senior Vice President of Player Safety Brendan Shanahan posted in justification of the suspension. Not only does it detail the three rules the hit on Rossa breaks, but it also shows the history of dirty hits by Torres by spotlighting his actions in each of the five incidents (prior to the hit on Rossa) since 2007.

  • David Moss – October 20, 2007
  • Patrik Berglund – March 29, 2009
  • Jordan Eberle – April 5, 2010
  • Jan Hejda – December 29, 2011
  • Nate Prosser – December 31, 2011

The discipline for this variety of nasty hits included a pair of $2,500 fines, a 2-game suspension and a 4-game suspension. This recent suspension of 25 games is a huge upping of the ante. While acknowledging that this is a much more serious punishment than Torres has received in the past, there is something else that needs to be considered.

From 2007 to 2012, Torres’ earnings amount to $9.5 million. That sum may be beans compared to what other professional athletes make, but don’t you dare try to tell me that $2,500 here and there was ever going to convince him to change his ways. Neither was sitting out 2 games or 4 games in a season that consists of 82 games.

While Shanahan used Torres’ history of violent, illegal hits to rationalize such a relatively severe suspension, to me it seemed an indictment of the NHL as much as an indictment of Torres. How long will the league put up with such cheap shots that send players to the hospital? Does someone have to be paralyzed before a change is made either in behavior or in enforcement?

I realize hockey is an inherently violent sport, and I know it the NHL cannot regulate violence out of the game – nor should it. However, leaping into the air to put your shoulder into a guy’s head or blindsiding someone with an elbow to the head is not good, hard hockey. It’s cheap and it’s dangerous.

Even if Torres can accept the risk of severely injuring or possibly even paralyzing other players with his cheap shots, the NHL should not have that same cavalier attitude. If the league really cares about its players, it should ditch the 2-game suspensions in favor of more like this 25-game one when such flagrant shots to the head are involved.

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One Response to “Explanation of hockey suspension reveals larger problem”

  1. nolimitsportsnews April 29, 2012 at 4:04 pm #

    Great article! I agree that the NHL has to hand out harsher penalties for such senseless violence.

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