SAN JOSE, Calif. – San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said Friday that the organization strongly disagrees with the NHL’s decision to suspend forward Raffi Torres for a hit that knocked out Los Angeles forward Jarret Stoll.
“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 NHL’s Department of Player Safety sharply disagreed while suspending Torres on Thursday for the rest of the second-round series. 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.
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.
Stoll missed Game 2 of the series and there is no timetable for his return.
“It’s a clean hit,” Sharks forward Logan Couture said. “Unfortunately, the guy got injured. If they suspended guys for every time someone else got hurt, even if it’s a clean hit, there would be a lot of suspensions in this league. And it’s just not fair.”
Wilson says Torres will not appeal the suspension because he does not want to be a distraction to the team. San Jose trails the series 2-0 heading into Game 3 at home on Saturday night.
Torres’ teammates said they are using Torres’ absence as inspiration.
“It’s the playoffs you always find something to rally,” forward Scott Gomez said. “He’s a great teammate and a great guy and we want him to play. He’s tremendous in the room with the young guys. It’s our job to get it to the next round so he can play.”