On Oct. 3, Raffi Torres, the left winger for the San Jose Sharks, was suspended for an NHL-record 41 games. The suspension was the result of his illegal hit on Anaheim’s Jakob Silfverberg in a preseason game.
As Silfverberg brought the puck up through the neutral zone, Torres skated across the ice towards him. About a second after Silfverberg passed the puck, Torres aimed his shoulder up high and made contact with the lowered head of Silfverberg in a late hit that knocked him down to the ice in an instant.
For this late hit, Torres will be sitting in something far worse than the penalty box—his own home, watching San Jose play on TV. He also loses more than $440,000 of his salary.
I agree 100 percent with the call made by the NHL. The league finally dropped the disciplinary hammer to oppose players who think they can get away with playing dirty on the ice with minimal repercussions. There are enforcers on the ice, and then there are straight-up dirty players, like Torres.
We have seen this type of play over the past few seasons from third-liners such as Daniel “Car Bomb” Carcillo and Matt Cooke. Silfverberg was in a defenseless position with no chance to even comprehend that Torres was inches away. I am all for hard-hitting hockey, as are most fans of the sport, but players need to know how to play the game within the rules—this decision by the NHL is a big step in the right direction.
There has been such a big conversation in football regarding concussions and the future health of ex-athletes, and the same discussion applies to the NHL. Some of the greatest players in NHL history have suffered from concussions as well as their aftereffects, keeping the players away from the game that they love.
The biggest example that comes to my mind is of Eric Lindros, the Philadelphia Flyers center and Hall-of-Fame hopeful whose stellar career was diminished by concussions he received from dangerous hits to the head. Lindros played more than 65 games in a season only four times in his 13-year career.
Although we see illegal play in all sports, it certainly happens in the NHL frequently, where tough physicality is expected to be a part of the game. As for Torres, he has a history of illegal play, now having been suspended five times for a total of 78 games in his career.
There is a way to play the game of hockey right—and Torres’s suspension history demonstrates that he’s not doing that.
For San Jose, the team won’t suffer terribly, as Torres has only played in five games since the 2013-14 season with minimal impact. For the NHL, this is a huge improvement and is the first step in curbing this type of play.