Torres deserves proper appeal for suspension

The Globe and Mail

Chicago Blackhawks' Marian Hossa (L) is checked by Phoenix Coyotes' Raffi Torres during Game 3 of their NHL Western Conference quarter-final playoff hockey game in Chicago. (JIM YOUNG/Reuters)

So Raffi Torres has decided to appeal his 25-game suspension.

Given the inconsistency with which the NHL has meted out discipline the past few years, it's hard to blame him.

Just to get this out of the way up front: In no way should Torres, the Phoenix Coyotes winger who has hit to hurt for years, go unpunished for his actions.

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He concussed Marian Hossa with a late, high hit, and he should miss plenty of action as a result.

But when it comes to an appeal, the question is, in the context of other suspensions handed out in this league, did Torres deserve one of the two or three longest bans in NHL history?

(Factoring in preseason games, his suspension may well wind up being 30+ games.)

Especially when you consider that the league has always deemed playoff games as more important than regular season ones, with an unwritten rule that every postseason game missed is the equivalent of two during the year.

Looking at the other suspensions given out by NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan all year, none were nearly as harsh as the one dealt Torres.

In fact, there hadn't been a suspension longer than five games since early January, despite plenty of elbows and hits to the head over the last three months of the season.

Even Matt Cooke's elbow to the head last season was met with only a 17-game ban, and in that case, they were dealing with an offender with a longer rap sheet and a play that wasn't close to a legitimate bodycheck.

Then there are the completely inexplicable decisions made from earlier in these playoffs, including not suspending Nashville Predators captain Shea Weber for shoving Henrik Zetterberg's head into the glass and penalizing other high hits (like those of James Neal) with only one game suspensions.

There's enough grey area there to warrant an appeal, but the problem with NHL justice is that the only form of one available is to plead one's case directly to commissioner Gary Bettman.

Here's the collective bargaining agreement language on that:

"... a Player may seek review of a disciplinary determination by the Commissioner, who will endeavor to rule promptly on any such appeal. In cases following a formal, in-person hearing, the Commissioner will apply a 'de novo' standard of review."

De novo essentially meaning "from the beginning."

No suspensions have ever been altered (which is likely what Torres asks for here) or wiped out as the result of an appeal. And it's no wonder why given Bettman hires the disciplinarians and is hardly about to second guess decisions made at that level of the hierarchy.

The NHLPA wants a proper appeal process in cases like this, one that will go to an independent party and have a chance at a suspension being shortened or overturned. That will be something that gets lumped in with CBA talks later this year.

With how little consistency there's been with these suspensions, adding some oversight – even if it comes after the fact – to the disciplinary process can only help.

After all, the only way this whole process gets fixed is if there is as much transparency and fairness attached to it as possible and that includes letting those like Torres having their say.

UPDATE There's some interesting info on Torres's appeal documents available here.

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