San Jose Sharks forward Raffi Torres was suspended for the rest of the second round of the NHL playoffs for what was determined to be an illegal hit to the head of Los Angeles Kings forward Jarret Stoll earlier this week.
The Sharks do not agree with that decision by the league, and as general manager Doug Wilson explained in a team-released statement on Friday evening, they believe it was a legal hockey hit.
Wilson said that Torres does not wish to be a distraction during the series and will not appeal the suspension, a decision they respect.
Here is Wilson's statement, via the Sharks:
The Sharks organization fully supports the NHL in its efforts to remove illegal and dangerous hits from the game but we strongly disagree with the NHL's decision to suspend Raffi Torres.
Upon review of the incident, it is abundantly clear that this was a clean hockey hit. 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.
As stated in the NHL's Player Safety video, Rule 48.1 says, "A hit resulting in contact with an opponent's head where the head is targeted and the principal point of contact is not permitted." Thus, with the use of the word "and", this rule clearly states that two elements must occur in order to violate the rule. Raffi absolutely did not target his opponent's head on the play. The call on the ice specifically acknowledged that the head was not targeted and nowhere in the NHL's ruling does it insinuate or suggest that the opponent's head was targeted.
Furthermore, the rule goes on to say: "However, in determining whether such a hit should have been permitted, the circumstances of the hit, including whether the opponent put himself in a vulnerable position immediately prior to or simultaneously with the hit or the head contact on an otherwise legal body check was avoidable, can be considered."
As evidenced in the video, just prior to Torres making contact with the opposing player, that player altered his posture to play a bouncing puck with his hand, placing himself in a vulnerable position.
Comparing the facts of this incident against the actual wording of Rule 48.1, 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.
We are proud of the work Raffi has put in to successfully adjust his game. Although it's unfortunate that Jarret was injured on the play, we feel this decision is grossly unfair to Raffi, his teammates and our fans. However, Raffi does not want to be a distraction to his teammates and has decided not to appeal this suspension and we respect that decision.
It's the fourth time Torres has been suspended in his NHL career, including a 25-game suspension in last year's playoffs (when he was a member of the Phoenix Coyotes) for a hit on Chicago's Marian Hossa. That suspension was later reduced to 21 games.