The NHL dropped the puck for the 2015-16 season this Wednesday night, a day in which so many have been eagerly anticipating. It is normal for the league and its fans to get excited as another season starts up, but for the NHL, this season couldn’t have started soon enough.
It was a long summer for the NHL, filled with controversy surrounding some of the players, and how the league responded to the circumstance. I’m not here to talk about the Patrick Kane situation, because that deserves more time and space in the paper. Suffice it to say, the league has not handled the situation the way I believe they should have.
I could go on about the situations involving Jarret Stoll, Mike Richards and Slava Voynov, but I give credit to the NHL on how they responded to the latest illegal hit by Sharks forward Raffi Torres.
Torres, who is well known for taking illegal shots at players, was just handed a 41 game suspension for his late hit to the head hit on Ducks forward Jakub Silfverberg. 41 games. Half the season.
According to Frank Seravalli of TSN, the suspension to Torres is the third longest in league history, behind Marty McSorley’s yearlong ban in 2000 and Billy Coutu’s lifetime ban in 1927.
This is the fifth time in Torres’ career that he has been suspended, and ninth time that he has been either suspended or fined by the league., Most of the suspensions have been for illegal hits to the head of opponents.
You may recall a 21 game suspension that Torres served for taking a run at the head of Chicago forward Marian Hossa in the first round of the 2012 playoffs.
It was great to see the NHL finally say enough is enough. Hockey is a dangerous sport, everyone who plays the game knows that. It is the nature of the game, but what needs to be eliminated are the unnecessary deliberate attempts to go after a vulnerable player’s head or knee area.
I believe it is the San Jose Sharks turn to take a stance and show that this behavior in the game will not be tolerated. It is easy to do, really. Pay Torres what he is contractually owed, but never allow him to skate for the team again, even after the suspension is up. Come out publically and support the NHL’s stance on the suspension.
Certainly, if Torres was on another team and took a cheap shot at one of the Sharks players, there would be plenty of people in the Sharks organization calling him out.
The NHL has taken several precautions over the years to help make the game safer for the players, and this was another big step. The game is safer with Torres not playing, and this should set the standard for players who continue to violate the league’s safety policy.
I doubt this is the kind of event the NHL wanted to see happen right before the start of its regular season, especially given some of the other occurrences that have taken place since the Stanley Cup was won by the Chicago Blackhawks in June.
However, the NHL has made a statement, and hopefully we see a much cleaner and safer games this season because of it.