I’ve gotten a few requests to look at Sharks GM Doug Wilson’s statement in support of Raffi Torres. In the meantime, Gann Matsuda took on the task, covering Wilson’s hypocrisy here. I still have not read the Wilson statement, but I’m doing it now. Ride along with me…
Upon review of the incident, it is abundantly clear that this was a clean hockey hit.
As I said when it happened, I thought the hit was on the edge, but, given Torres’s history, suspendible. At least, I think that’s what I said. I’ll have to check. I don’t know what counts for Wilson as clarity in abundance, but there seem to be several challenges to clarity. Namely, (1) was it interference, (2) was it charging, (3) was it a blind-side hit, (4) did the player target the head, (5) was the principal point of contact the head, (6) was the hit reckless, (7) was there an intent to injure, (8) does the player have a history of (a) recklessness, (b) dangerous hits, (c) intent to injure… It’s possible to address each of these questions and (apparently) also possible to decide that Torres passes the test, but it’s absurd to assert as Wilson does that it’s an obviously clean 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.
Except that the refs thought otherwise since the call on the ice was charging. The rule book leaves plenty of wiggle room on the definition of charging, such that it can be applied to pretty much any hockey hit, regardless of whether he was “gliding” or “skating.” (p.s. pretty sure Torres was skating.)
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.
As Gann noted in his rebuttal, that’s a disingenuous parsing of that sentence. Gann already covered this one, so I’ll just add that the rule book is full of mangled phrases like that. I can think of only two practical interpretations of “where the head is targeted.”
- “where the officials decide that the checking player appeared to target the head of the opponent.”
- “where the officials ask the checking player if he meant to hit him in the head and he says, ‘yes.’”
Raffi absolutely did not target his opponent’s head on the play.
It appears Wilson favors my second interpretation.
The call on the ice specifically acknowledged that the head was not targeted
I didn’t know refs were so specific. I thought they just said “charging.” Not, “charging, though we acknowledge the head was not targeted.”
and nowhere in the NHL’s ruling does it insinuate or suggest that the opponent’s head was targeted.
Oh, I don’t know. I think you could argue the NHL insinuates it.
Oh, good. There’s more.
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.
That caveat refers to cases in which a player intentionally puts himself into a vulnerable position so that the resulting check (which would otherwise have been legal) requires a penalty. That’s what is meant by “put himself into a vulnerable position immediately prior.” It does not mean, “hey if you bend over it’s your own tough luck.”
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.
He’s a repeat offender. The league is allowed — actually, required — to take that into account. I love that you offer, as supportive evidence, how not horrible and dangerous he’s been since January, compared to the rest of his career.
I take it as axiomatic that a repeat offender has not repeated his offense since his last offense. That’s always going to be true, even after this one, and the next one.