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The King’s Justice: Bettman’s NHL Comes Down Hard On Raffi Torres


Raffi Torres Gets 25 Games For Hit On Marian Hossa.

Many who watched this week’s installment of the NHL playoffs felt that the sometimes overwhelming stream of minor, major and misconduct penalties handed down early in games were a message from the league saying, essentially, enough is enough. They were wrong. The message was received today; first by Raffi Torres, now the entire league.

Similar to the article I wrote the day after Hossa was sent to the hospital by Torres, this suspension was based both on a body of work, and a league-wide perception that the NHL has been relatively ineffectual in handling headshots until this point. I suppose we can call them ineffectual no longer.

Nevertheless, this does highlight the vast inconsistencies with which the NHL has operated this spring. When you compare Carkner’s suckering of Boyle, or Asham’s handiwork on Schenn, or Carl Hagelin’s headshot on Daniel Alfredsson (which could effectively end his career), are these offenses really, in Hagelin’s case, 22 games apart in severity? In other words, does the punishment fit the crime?

The answer? Yes and no. For the individual hit in question, of course no. Torres does not deserve to be banned for 25 games for that hit on its own. Think of it this way. If Phoenix were to make it to the Stanley Cup final, having gone to game seven in each series, he would be hoisting the cup in a suit. So, considering how stiff the punishment is, let’s be honest about what this is: on one hand it’s a league exasperated with a player’s refusal to learn from his previous mistakes and get up with the times; on the other hand, Torres has been used to serve the league’s wider ambition this week: to better police the game and stem the madness.

And oh, there has been madness. It seems as though the early theme of the playoffs has been bloodshed, and the fans’ apparent love for, or aversion to it. The TV ratings are off the charts, specifically in the Philadelphia/Pittsburgh series, which has been by far the most violent. 2.7 American viewers tuned into game three in that series, making it the most watched hockey game in America in a decade.

This puts the NHL in a precarious position, balancing on a fine line between the embrace of violence and the responsibility to maintain player safety. For the moment, with this exhaustive suspension on Torres, it appears the NHL has moved decidedly towards the latter, but who knows, it may not be long before rivalries are renewed and the blood begins to spill again. And remember, this is Raffi Torres getting 25 games. We’ve yet to see what happens in a similar situation involving a star player. The worst that’s been handed out was a one-gamer to Nicklas Backstrom for cross-checking  Rich Peverly in the face.

For some reason I doubt we’ll see even 5 games thrown at say Alex Ovechkin, who also has several suspensions, if he launches himself at someone’s head and causes a severe injury. That is the nature of Bettman’s justice: just, as long as the league can afford it.

Nevertheless, they may have gotten this one right. Now if they could only get the next one right they’d really be on a roll.

Written by Jesse Borg.

Update: here’s a link to Shanahan’s video on the matter

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