Thursday’s surprising news that Phoenix Coyotes forward Raffi Torres was appealing his 25-game suspension for hitting Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa in the head last month had a tinge of irony in that it came on the same day Hossa spoke publicly about the hit for the first time.
If commissioner Gary Bettman -- who will hear the appeal -- is going to take into account Hossa’s current health it’s even more doubtful he’ll reduce the suspension. Not surprisingly, Hossa didn’t sound his normal self in talking about one of the worst moments, if not the worst, of his great career.
While there is no reason to believe he won’t recover enough to play, by now everyone knows the longer-term dangers and uncertainty of head injuries. After such a devastating hit, will he be the same player? We won’t know until next season begins.
Many hockey fans are probably confused by the appeals process. It’s rarely used and rarely results in a reduction of a suspension. Bettman was undoubtedly informed of -- if not in on -- the original punishment, so what would prompt him to change his decision?
The Torres camp and the NHLPA are already on record saying they want to know why the suspension was so severe. According to a source, one thing they would like to do is present evidence of similar hits by similar repeat offenders that resulted in substantially less severe punishments. They were not able to present such evidence in the original hearing with Brendan Shanahan. They’re hopeful they can do so with the commissioner, according the source.
The other notion they are interested in exploring is the idea that suspensions in the playoffs are normally smaller due to the importance one game in a series has -- as opposed to one of 82 regular-season contests. How many games, the source says, would Torres have received if this had been a regular season game and does the current punishment fit any past pattern?
The league can automatically turn down the appeal, ask for another in-person hearing or talk to Torres on the phone. Torres would undoubtedly like another face-to-face meeting, this time with the commissioner, to present his evidence and ask a broader range of questions.
Whatever the outcome it doesn’t help Hossa heal any quicker and that’s the most important part of the equation.