SAN JOSE, Calif. – The NHL fined the San Jose Sharks $100,000 on Saturday for general manager Doug Wilson’s comments criticizing the league for forward Raffi Torres’ suspension for the rest of the second round of the playoffs.
The NHL said the fine was issued for violating a rule put in place earlier this year prohibiting formal team statements to the media during the 48-hour period following a disciplinary decision. The rule calls for an automatic $25,000 fine, and the Sharks were docked an additional $75,000 under an article in the league’s constitution because of the “inappropriate nature of the comments.”
Torres was suspended for the rest of San Jose’s playoff series against Los Angeles on Thursday for an illegal check to the head of Kings forward Jarret Stoll during Game 1. The Kings took a 2-0 lead into Game 3 on Saturday night in San Jose.
Wilson said Friday that the organization strongly disagreed with the NHL’s decision to suspend Torres.
“It is abundantly clear that this was a clean hockey hit,” Wilson said in a statement. “As noted by the NHL, Raffi’s initial point of contact was a shoulder-to-shoulder hit on an opponent who was playing the puck. He did not leave his feet or elevate, he kept his shoulder tucked and elbow down at his side, and he was gliding—not skating or charging.”
The team had no comment Saturday about the fine.
It is the fourth career suspension for Torres, who is considered a repeat offender in dangerous hits under the league’s collective bargaining agreement.
Stoll was bent forward while trying to play a bouncing puck when Torres approached him from the side for a violent hit in Game 1 on Tuesday night. Stoll’s head snapped back violently before he fell forward onto the ice. Stoll missed Game 2 and did not make the trip to San Jose for Saturday’s game. There is no timetable for his return.
In an explanatory video released by Brendan Shanahan, the NHL’s senior vice-president of player safety, he said Stoll’s head was “the principal point of contact” in the hit, creating grounds for suspension. Although Torres initially made contact with Stoll’s right shoulder, Shanahan ruled that the shoulder hit was only a glancing blow, as evidenced by the direction both players travelled after the contact.
Wilson said the head must be targeted to violate Rule 48.1 and there is no evidence that Torres targeted Stoll’s head. Wilson also said Stoll put himself in a vulnerable position just before the hit to play a bouncing puck.
“It appears that the NHL has not only made an inappropriate application of this rule but is trying to make an example out of a player who is being judged on past events, one who has changed his game dramatically this season and taken only six minor penalties in 39 games,” Wilson said.
While playing for Phoenix last season, Torres received a 21-game suspension—initially 25 games—for a high hit on Chicago star Marian Hossa in the first round of the playoffs. Torres was suspended for two games in January 2012 for charging Minnesota defenceman Nate Prosser, and he sat out four games in April 2011 for a hit to the head of Edmonton’s Jordan Eberle while playing for Vancouver.
The Sharks acquired Torres from Phoenix just before the trading deadline and he provided an immediate spark in helping the team make the playoffs and sweep Vancouver in the first round. Torres scored in overtime in Game 2 against the Canucks.
San Jose was expected to get a boost to the lineup Saturday with the return of injured forward Marty Havlat, who has been sidelined since leaving Game 1 in the first round because of a lower-body injury. Havlat told the coaching staff after the morning skate he was ready to play and coach Todd McLellan said he would get Havlat back in the lineup. Havlat has 21 goals and 31 assists in 73 career playoff games.