Capitals veteran right wing and three-time Stanley Cup champion Justin Williams didn’t mince words when asked his thoughts on the 41-game suspension San Jose Sharks forward Raffi Torres received for his check to the head of Anaheim Ducks forward Jakob Silfverberg.
“It’s perfect,” Williams said. “Absolutely perfect. He’s become somewhat of a menace on the ice now.
“It’s not the way the game’s played anymore, not that it ever should have been. My thoughts are what everyone else’s is: enough is enough. We all play the game hard, but those hits don’t belong anymore.”
The 41-game suspension was the longest since 1927 when Billy Coutu was banned for life for starting a bench-clearing brawl by attacking two referees. It was the fifth NHL suspension for Torres, who was also fined three times and warned twice for previous hits to the head. Torres will forfeit $440,860.29 in lost salary.
“The thing with him is that he’s done it over and over again and I think that’s why the NHL put its foot down and saw it was something wrong,” said Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom, who four seasons ago missed 40 games with a concussion after an open-ice blow to the head from former Calgary Flames forward Rene Bourque. Bourque received a five-game suspension for the hit.
“When you do it over and over again you don’t realize you’re actually hurting people instead of trying to play,” Backstrom said, “and that’s why I think it’s the right decision by the NHL.”
Capitals left wing Jason Chimera agreed that players need to be protected from illegal checks to the head, but as a former teammate of Torres (the two played together in Columbus) he sympathized with the 33-year-old winger.
“I know Raffi personally and he missed almost the whole year (last season) with his ACL and MCL rebuilt,” Chimera said. “Knowing him he was probably pretty jacked up just to be out there and do everything he could to get back into his game.
“He’s been known for big hits on the borderline of being dirty and not dirty. I don’t think his intention was to go over and hit (Silfverberg’s) head. It was to finish his check. Unfortunately, the principle contact was his head and obviously you don’t want to see anyone down like that. You don’t want Backy and guys like him down. It’s an unfortunate incident, for sure. Forty-one games is pretty stiff.”
Here is a list of the longest suspensions in NHL history, courtesy The Canadian Press:
Life: Billy Coutu, Boston Bruins, April 1927 for assaulting two referees and starting a Stanley Cup bench-clearing brawl. The ban was dropped after 2½ years, but Mr. Coutu never played in the NHL again.
41 games: Raffi Torres, San Jose Sharks, Oct. 5, 2015, for a check to the head of Anaheim Ducks forward Jakob Silfverberg.
25 games: Chris Simon, New York Islanders, March 11, 2007, for the rest of the regular season (15 games) and playoffs for his two-handed stick attack to the face of New York Rangers forward Ryan Hollweg. Since Islanders played only five playoff games, suspension extended to first five games of 2007-08.
23 games: Marty McSorley, Boston Bruins, Feb. 2000, for knocking out Vancouver’sDonald Brashear with a stick-swinging hit. On Nov. 7, 2000, the suspension was extended by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to Feb. 20, 2001.
23 games: Gordie Dwyer, Tampa Bay Lightning, Sept. 19, 2000, for abusing officials and coming out of the penalty box to fight in an exhibition game against Washington.
20 games: Todd Bertuzzi, Vancouver Canucks, March 11, 2004, for his sucker-punch of Colorado forward Steve Moore on March 8. Bertuzzi’s suspension was for 13 regular season games, plus playoffs. Bertuzzi was reinstated 17 months later, after the year-long lockout.
20 games: Tom Lysiak, Chicago Blackhawks, Oct. 1983, for intentionally tripping a linesman.
16 games: Eddie Shore, Boston Bruins, 1933, for hitting Toronto’s Ace Bailey over the head with his stick.
15 games: (3 regular-season, 12 playoff games) Maurice Richard, Montreal Canadiens, March 1955, for leveling linesman Cliff Thompson during a scuffle with Boston’s Hal Laycoe.
15 games: Wilf Paiement, Colorado Rockies, Oct. 1978, for swinging his stick and hitting Detroit’s Dennis Polonich in the face.
15 games: Tony Granato, Los Angeles Kings, Feb. 1994, for slashing Pittsburgh’s Neil Wilkinson.
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