Raffi Torres of Phoenix was suspended 25 games by the NHL on Saturday for a late hit that resulted in Chicago's Marian Hossa being taken off the ice on a stretcher. The ban ensures that the Coyotes' forward will miss the rest of the playoffs.
The announcement came hours before the Coyotes had a chance to eliminate the Blackhawks in Game 5 of their first-round series.
Torres left his feet to hit an unsuspecting Hossa during Game 3 on Tuesday night, smashing the Blackhawks forward into the ice. Hossa hasn't appeared again in the series.
Torres was not penalized during the game for the hit. His suspension is the longest since New York Islanders forward Chris Simon was banned 30 games for stomping on the ankle of Jarrko Ruutu in December 2007.
This is the third time Torres has been suspended by the NHL for a questionable hit in the last 13 months. He had a goal and an assist and averaged more than 19 minutes of ice time for Phoenix in the first three games of the series.
"The ruling is very severe for Raffi and our hockey club," Coyotes general manager Don Maloney said in a statement. "Raffi plays a hard, physical game yet this contact crossed the line on what is acceptable in our game today. We hope Marian Hossa makes a full and speedy recovery as we all enjoy watching him perform."
If the 25 games aren't exhausted during the playoffs — the Coyotes would need to play four straight seven-game series to complete the suspension — the ban carries over into the next regular season. Torres would not be able to play in any preseason games in that case.
As a repeat offender, Torres would forfeit $21,341 in salary for every regular-season game he sits out. Torres served the first game of the suspension Thursday while waiting for Friday's hearing with league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan.
Shanahan said in a statement Saturday that Torres' hit violated three rules: interference, charging and illegal check to the head. Shanahan said two factors figuring into the length of the suspension were that "this violent and dangerous hit caused a severe injury" and that Torres' "extensive supplemental discipline history consists mainly of acts very similar to this one — including two this season."
"Despite knowing that Hossa no longer has the puck, Torres decides to finish his check past the amount of time when Hossa is eligible to be body-checked," Shanahan said.
''While we acknowledge the circumstances of certain hits may cause a player's skates to come off the ice," he added, "on this hit, Torres launches himself into the air before making contact. ... The position of Hossa's head does not change just prior to or simultaneous with this hit. The onus, therefore, is on Torres not to make it the principal point of contact. By leaping, Torres makes Hossa's head the principal point of contact."