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Raffi Torres suspended 21 games by Gary Bettman, following NHLPA appeal of 25-game ban

Greg Wyshynski
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Raffi Torres was suspended 25 games back on April 21 for putting Marian Hossa of the Chicago Blackhawks on a stretcher with a hit to the head. A repeat offender, Torres's ban was a third-longest suspension in NHL history, potentially made even longer when you factor in the preseason games Torres would miss next season.

The NHLPA and Torres appealed the suspension on May 3, taking their case to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman … who, of course, hired NHL Executive VP of Player Safety Brendan Shanahan … who, of course, suspended Torres for 25 games.

But despite all of that, Bettman has decided to reduce Torres's suspension to 21 games and the preseason, meaning that he'll only serve eight games in the regular season.

Well, not so much "reduced" as suspended again, with time served. Via the NHL:

National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman announced today that he has suspended Phoenix Coyotes forward Raffi Torres for 21 games for launching himself to deliver a late hit to the head of Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa during Game 3 of the Western Conference Quarterfinal Playoff series in Chicago on April 17.

The length of the suspension includes the 13 games Torres already served during the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Torres therefore will remain suspended, without pay, for the first eight games of the upcoming regular season. Because he is classified as a repeat offender under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, Torres will forfeit $170,731.68 in salary. In addition, Torres will be ineligible to participate in any preseason games until he has served the full term of the suspension.

"This type of on-ice conduct cannot and will not be tolerated in the National Hockey League," Commissioner Bettman said. "We have seen similar behavior before from Mr. Torres and, particularly given the League's heightened scrutiny on hits to the head, I believe that a very significant penalty is warranted in this case. We hope and expect that the severity of this incident, and the League's response to it, will help prevent any similar incident from occurring in the future."

Torres met with Bettman at a hearing in New York on May 17. Remember, this is a de novo ruling from Bettman; in other words, it's a "new" suspension based on his ruling on the evidence, but one that factors in the time Torres was already suspended.

Boy, that decision took a while. The Stanley Cup Final ended ages ago, and Bettman said he just needed time to write out his ruling. Wonder what the delay was oh that's right it's completely timed for the opening of the CBA talks.

That cynicism aside, the NHL did the right thing here. The major thrust of the suspension was to not allow Torres to appear again in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Coyotes played 13 games without him in the postseason, and eventually were eliminated by the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference Final.

The initial suspension was egregious and heavy-handed; Torres didn't deserve a playoff-ban for the hit, and because he was given one it carried over to the regular season.

This at least rectifies some of that.

What it doesn't do: Make any distinction between suspended players missing preseason or regular-season games, which is a point of clarification we imagine the NHLPA would like to see. Shanahan built preseason games into suspension last season; now they seemingly don't count toward Torres's total.

The NHL didn't want Torres in the preseason, potentially facing the embarrassment of seeing a suspended player injure someone in an exhibition game. We get that. But truth in punishment, please: Factor the preseason games into the total suspension figure.

What it also doesn't do: Make any of us less skeptical and weary of a process in which the NHL is the law enforcement, the judge and jury and the appellate court. A few games shaved off an excessive suspension doesn't change that.

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