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Friday, May 17, 2013

Sharks GM: Torres Hit Clean

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Sharks GM: Torres Hit Clean

Head injuries have been the talk of the medial sports world over the past couple of seasons as major talents have gone down across the four major sports with concussions. The leagues have done everything in their power to try to crack down on intentional head contact to minimize such injuries, strengthening rules and freely doling out fines and suspensions. A few nights ago the latest of the "suspension worthy" hits has thrown by the San Jose Sharks' Raffi Torres, a repeat offender. The hit itself injured the opposing player. After being announced on Wednesday that Torres would be suspended for the remainder of the second round of the playoffs, Sharks GM Brian Wilson had some harsh words regarding the league and their decision.

The following is a statement issued by Sharks GM Brian Wilson, courtesy of TSN...
San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson released a statement on Friday, regarding the Raffi Torres' suspension.
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 the 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.

The official ruling and explanation by NHL Director of Player Saftey Brendan Shanahan can be found here:  NHL.com Raffi Torres Suspension Explanation

Alright hockey fans, we have heard the NHL point of view and that of the team. Is the silence of Torres and failure to appeal to a degree an admission of guilt? Or is the NHL wrong with their ruling and targeting a repeat offender?

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