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Raffi Torres won’t appeal ban; Sharks’ GM challenges NHL’s interpretation of rule

Sean Leahy
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For a second straight postseason, San Jose Sharks forward Raffi Torres was suspended by the NHL for an illegal hit. After he was banned for the remainder of the Sharks' series with the Los Angeles Kings -- which could end up being between 3-6 games -- there was a thought that Torres could be the first test case of the appeal system negotiated in the new CBA.

According to ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun, Torres has decided otherwise and will not challenge the suspension handed down by Brendan Shanahan on Thursday.

Despite Torres' decision, Doug Wilson had a few things to get off his chest about the suspension. Late Friday, the Sharks' general manager released a statement vehemently disagreeing with Shanahan's decision and challenging the wording in Rule 48.1 and how it was applied:

From the Sharks:

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.

After Torres changed his ways following the massive suspension a year ago for his hit on Marian Hossa, with this suspension and the spotlight shining very, very brightly on him going forward, how much will this affect his game going forward?

Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy

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