Nam Y. Huh, Associated Press
GLENDALE, Ariz. — A blindside hit, a history of violence and a leaguewide crackdown on rough play earned Phoenix Coyotes forward Raffi Torres one of the longest suspensions in NHL history.
Torres was suspended 25 games by the league Saturday and will miss the rest of the playoffs for a late hit that resulted in Chicago's Marian Hossa being taken off the ice on a stretcher.
After one of the least-penalized regular seasons in the NHL's modern era, Torres is the ninth player to be suspended during what's been an out-for-blood playoffs so far.
"I think it's a precedent," Chicago center Brendan Morrison said Saturday, a few hours before Phoenix tried to clinch its first-round series over the Blackhawks. "We've been talking about it for so long over the course of the last couple of years and there has been more suspensions, but the message isn't getting through to guys. I don't know how it can't get through after this."
Torres' suspension is the longest for an on-ice offense since New York Islanders forward Chris Simon was banned 30 games for stomping on the ankle of Pittsburgh's Jarrko Ruutu in December 2007.
It also matches the second-longest suspension: Simon also was suspended 25 games for his two-handed stick attack to the face of New York Rangers forward Ryan Hollweg in 2007 and so was Philadelphia's Jesse Boulerice for cross-checking Vancouver center Ryan Kesler across the face in 2007.
"The ruling is very severe for Raffi and our hockey club," Coyotes general manager Don Maloney said in a statement. "Raffi plays a hard, physical game yet this contact crossed the line on what is acceptable in our game today. We hope Marian Hossa makes a full and speedy recovery as we all enjoy watching him perform."
If the 25 games of his suspension aren't exhausted during the playoffs — the Coyotes would need to play four straight seven-game series to complete the suspension — the ban carries over into the next regular season. Torres would not be able to play in any preseason games in that case.
As a repeat offender, Torres would forfeit $21,341 in salary for every regular-season game he sits out.
Torres had a goal and an assist and averaged more than 19 minutes of ice time for Phoenix in the first three games of the series.
"The league has made its decision and there is nothing we can do about it now," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "We deal with it as a club and Raffi has to deal with it, but our focus is solely on what we had to do tonight. It's an unfortunate incident, but the league has had its say and we move on."
Torres wasn't penalized when he left his feet to hit an unsuspecting Hossa during Game 3 Tuesday in Chicago, smashing the Blackhawks forward to the ice. Hossa lay on the ice for several minutes before being taken away on a stretcher and hasn't appeared again in the series.
Torres didn't play in Game 4 on Thursday, which Phoenix won in overtime to take a 3-1 series lead, and had a hearing with league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan on Friday.
Shanahan said in a statement that Torres' hit violated three rules: interference, charging and illegal check to the head. In determining the length of the suspension, Shanahan noted that Torres caused severe injury and his discipline history consists mainly of acts similar to the hit on Hossa, including two this season.
"Despite knowing that Hossa no longer has the puck, Torres decides to finish his check past the amount of time when Hossa is eligible to be body-checked," Shanahan said.
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