Raffi Torres has been granted two extra days to prepare his case.
But it’s hard to imagine there’s much the Phoenix Coyotes winger can say to avoid being handed a significant suspension after sending Chicago’s Marian Hossa to hospital with a devastating hit on Tuesday night.
A hearing will be held Friday at the NHL’s New York office to determine Torres’ fate—a process required by league rules for disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan to hand out a ban lasting longer than five games.
In the meantime, Torres is suspended indefinitely and will sit out Game 4 of the Coyotes-Blackhawks series on Thursday night.
“With all the hoopla surrounding it, it doesn’t surprise me that they’re looking at it, that’s for sure,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said after practice Wednesday. “It’s out of our hands now.”
The incident that landed Torres in hot water came in the first period of Game 3 after Hossa had passed the puck in the neutral zone. More than half a second later, the Coyotes forward launched himself into his unsuspecting opponent, catching Hossa in the head with check.
Hossa was taken from the ice on a stretcher and released from hospital a couple hours later with “encouraging results,” according to the Blackhawks. The team ruled him out of Game 4 and didn’t disclose the specific nature of his injuries.
Torres has a history of questionable hits but didn’t think this one crossed the line.
“First off, I hope he’s all right,” he said after the game. “But as far as the hit goes, I felt like it was a hockey play, just trying to finish my hit out there.”
That explanation didn’t sit well with the Blackhawks, especially in light of the vicious hit Torres delivered on Chicago defenceman Brent Seabrook during last year’s playoffs.
“It was the same thing when he was in Vancouver last year, he probably thought that was a hockey play too,” said Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews. “There’s no remorse at all I don’t think with a guy like that. (There was) a guy carried off on a stretcher and he probably doesn’t feel bad about it all.
“That’s not hockey to me.”
It wasn’t hockey to Don Cherry either. The popular hockey commentator said on CBC’s “Hockey Night in Canada” broadcast Wednesday that Torres should get a 10-game suspension.
“This to me is a cheap shot,” Cherry said on his “Coach’s Corner” segment. “(Hossa) never had a chance. It wasn’t his fault. He was turning. The puck was already gone.
“You can’t do that stuff. If you get caught in the trolley tracks and you have your head down with the puck you deserve it. But (Hossa) didn’t deserve that.”
The biggest thing likely to work against Torres during the discipline process is his history: he was suspended four games in April 2011 for an illegal hit on Edmonton’s Jordan Eberle; he was fined US$2,500 on Dec. 29 for elbowing Colorado’s Jan Hejda; and he was banned two games on Dec. 31 for an illegal hit on Minnesota’s Nate Prosser.
And that doesn’t include the hit on Seabrook that controversially went unpunished by the league last spring.
The Coyotes began preparing for life without Torres by recalling forward Matt Watkins from the American Hockey League. There’s no way of knowing exactly how severely the veteran will be punished—especially with Shanahan under so much heat—but Tippett didn’t think the incident was as bad as some were making it out to be.
“I’ve seen a lot of other hits like it around the league,” he said. “It’s a fast game. The thing about TV is you can slow it down … (but) when you’re out there on the ice it’s not slowed down.
“I don’t think there was any malicious intent on Raffi’s part.”
Phoenix leads the entertaining series 2-1 following a 3-2 overtime win in Game 3.
The NHL requested that the discipline hearing for the Hossa incident be held on Wednesday night, but Torres and the NHL Players’ Association asked for it to be pushed back to allow more time to prepare their case and arrange travel plans. There was no immediate word on if Torres planned to personally attend the hearing.
“It sounds like they’re going down the right road,” said Toews. “It sounds like a good start.
“Hopefully, they come up with something that is satisfying for us,” he added. “But I think the most satisfying thing for our team and for Hoss would be for us to go out there and win (Thursday) and get our team back on our feet here.”