April 22, 2012
Raffi Torres: 25 Games Too Much
The NHL's decision to suspend Raffi Torres for 25 games is applaudable yet mind boggling.
On one hand it is exactly the strong message needed to be delivered to a habitual offender like Raffi Torres. He hits to hurt, and that is wrong. He attempts to do it within what now passes as the confines of the game. Those definitions are a big part of the problem. But, like Matt Cooke before him, when Torres has as many people as he has, something needs to be done. Clearly the only way he is going to stop endangering opponents is to get such a severe sentence. It is maddening that the league is not consistent in such messages. Stronger is definitely necessary.
But on the whole the suspension is nothing short of ridiculous. 25 games for a hockey play gone wrong? Aaron Rome's 4 game Stanley Cup Final ban was bad enough. The key here being both were hockey plays. Yes, in both cases the victim was seriously hurt. But at least both plays were routine hockey plays, albeit plays that were poorly timed or executed. A fraction of a second separates what Torres did and Chris Neil's devastating but acceptably clean hit on Brian Boyle.
Shea Weber drove Henrik Zetterberg's head into the glass with the clear intent to injure his head. Duncan Keith assaulted Daniel Sedin, concussing him and causing him to miss a month and jeopardize his team's playoff chances. He got a mere 5 games for that, nowhere near enough. The key here being both were non-hockey plays were clear intent to injure.
I am all for the NHL suspending a long time offender like Raffi Torres for 25 games. Players without such a track record should still be dealt with more severely than they currently are as well. But players who purposely intend to an injure another player need to be dealt with the most severely of all - whether they actually do hurt them or not.
This all keeps coming back to the Weber non-suspension. The right thing to do would have been to suspend him. One game is all it would have taken. Instead the NHL screwed that up so royally that they hard to take seriously.
In an effort to correct that, Raffi Torres takes a harder fall than he should have. A severe suspension is warranted, yes. But not that severe.