NHL - Coyotes' Torres banned for 25 games
Phoenix Coyotes winger Raffi Torres has been suspended for 25 games for a devastating hit on Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa.
If the 25-game ban is not served by the conclusion of the Stanley Cup playoffs, Torres' suspension will carry over into the 2012-13 NHL campaign and prohibit him from participating in preseason games.
Torres, who plans to take a few days to determine whether to appeal the ruling, launched himself into an unsuspecting Hossa with a shoulder-to-head hit more than half a second after the Chicago player passed the puck in Game Three of Tuesday's Western Conference quarter-final.
Hossa lay on the ice of Chicago's United Center for several minutes before being taken away on a stretcher. He was released from hospital a few hours later.
There is no timetable for Hossa's return, which is a severe blow to the Blackhawks as the 33-year-old Slovak was their regular-season points leader.
While noting three separate rules were violated with the hit -- interference, charging and illegal check to the head -- league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan said two other factors were critical in determining the length of suspension.
"First, this violent and dangerous hit caused a severe injury," Shanahan said in a statement. "Second, Torres not only is a repeat offender ... his extensive supplemental discipline history consists mainly of acts very similar to this one -- including two this season."
Torres was banned indefinitely pending his Friday hearing at NHL headquarters in New York City and missed Thursday's game won by Phoenix.
To serve his entire suspension in the playoffs and avoid missing time next season, the Coyotes would need to play four consecutive seven-game series, which would require them to advance to Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Finals.
Torres issued a brief statement in which he said his main concern is for Hossa to have a full recovery.
"I hope that he will be able to get back on the ice to compete again soon. I sincerely regret injuring Marian," said Torres, who has been suspended three times and fined once in the past year.
"Regarding the severity of the suspension issued, I will take the next few days to decide whether or not to appeal the decision."
Phoenix General Manager Don Maloney called the ruling "very severe" for Torres and the Coyotes but thanked Shanahan for a thorough review of the incident.
"Raffi plays a hard, physical game yet this contact crossed the line on what is acceptable in our game today," Maloney said in a statement.
"We hope Marian Hossa makes a full and speedy recovery as we all enjoy watching him perform. The club accepts the NHL's decision and will focus on our game tonight."
Torres was fined $2,500 in December for elbowing Colorado Avalanche defenceman Jan Hejda and suspended two days later for two games for an illegal hit on Nate Prosser during a game against the Minnesota Wild.
As a member of the Vancouver Canucks last season, Torres was banned for the final two games of the regular season and two playoff games for a hit on Edmonton's Jordan Eberle.
Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville was fined $10,000 by the NHL earlier this week for calling the officiating in Game Three a "disgrace" for failing to call a penalty on Torres.
"It was a brutal hit," Quenneville said after Chicago's 3-2 overtime loss on Tuesday. "I saw exactly what happened. It was right in front of me. How four guys missed it was hard. The refereeing tonight was a disgrace."