History has come back to bite Raffi Torres.
The Phoenix Coyotes winger has been suspended by the National Hockey League for 25 games after a hit on Chicago’s Marian Hossa in Game 3 of the opening round playoff series.
"My main concern is for the healthy recovery of Marian Hossa, and I hope that he will be able to get back on the ice to compete again soon. I sincerely regret injuring Marian," Torres said in a statement released by the NHL Players' Association.
"Regarding the severity of the suspension issued, I will take the next few days to decide whether or not to appeal the decision."
Those contests will be consecutive, so any not served during the current post-season will be added to next year’s regular schedule. He will also not be allowed to participate in Coyotes’ pre-season games in the fall.
"I think it's a precedent," Chicago centre 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's suspension is the longest for an on-ice offence 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 centre Ryan Kesler across the face in 2007.
The ban is the longest handed out by league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan, who suspended Columbus defenceman James Wisniewski for 13 games (five pre-season, eight regular season) in September.
"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."
Torres, who was not assessed a penalty on the play, left his feet and contacted Hossa’s head with his shoulder, sending the Hawks winger to the ice. The Chicago star was taken off on a stretcher and spent a short time in hospital before being released.
"Torres launched himself to deliver a late, direct hit to the head of Chicago forward Marian Hossa," NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan said in a video statement. "After the puck is poked off Hossa's stick, he turns towards the middle of the ice. As Hossa turns to recover the loose puck … it is clear [Torres] sees that Hossa is no longer in possession of the puck because Torres takes a one-handed swipe at it with his stick.
"Torres then leaps into the air and drives his left shoulder into Hossa's head. This is a violation of three NHL rules: interference, charging and illegal check to the head."
Hossa was to miss Game 5 in the series on Saturday night, while Torres would forfeit $21,341 US in salary for every regular-season game he sits out
"Hossa suffered a major injury as a result of this hit," Shanahan continued. "Torres has been fined or suspended five previous times including recently for hits very similar to this one. [Therefore] the department of player safety has decided to suspend Raffi Torres for 25 games."
This is another in a long-string of incidents involving Torres, including two previous suspensions and a pair of fines for rough play just in the last 13 months, and Shanahan said that was a factor in the length of this suspension.
Torres elbowed Jordan Eberle in the head, on April 5, 2011, and earned a four game suspension. On Jan. 3 of this year, a charge on Minnesota’s Nate Prosser, resulted in a two-game enforced vacation.
He had also injured Chicago defenceman Brent Seabrook during last year’s playoffs while a member of the Vancouver Canucks.
"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."
'I just think the NHL is sick of it right now. I think they're tired of the predator-type hits.'— Blues coach Ken Hitchcock on Torres suspension
After this week’s hit on Hossa, the NHL called Torres to New York for an in-person hearing with Shanahan, a meeting that included Maloney and Coyotes assistant GM Brad Treliving, plus representatives from the NHL Players’ Association.
News of the suspension travelled quickly around the league.
"I just think the NHL is sick of it right now," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock told reporters in St. Louis. "I think they're tired of the predator-type hits."
Added Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma: "I think it's going to be probably the most talked-about thing throughout the locker-rooms today."
Torres had played almost 20 minutes a game for the Coyotes in the opening three games of the playoffs, scoring once and adding an assist.
Don Cherry, the Hockey Night in Canada analyst, said on the Wednesday Coach's Corner that the hit was a "cheap shot".
"[Hossa] never had a chance. It wasn't his fault. He was turning. The puck was already gone. "You can't do that stuff. If you get caught in the trolley tracks and you have your head down with the puck you deserve it. But [Hossa] didn't deserve that."