Preseason is the perfect opportunity for players to tune up the finer points of their game prior to entering into meaningful competition.  Unfortunately, Raffi Torres opted to work on one of the parts of his game that leaves him on the wrong side of the law. 

At 12:45 of the first period of Saturday’s game between the Sharks and the Ducks, Torres charged across the ice and launched his shoulder into the head of Anaheim’s Jakon Silfverberg. 


Torres received a match penalty for an illegal check to the head.  Referees Tim Peel and Tom Kowal worked the game alongside linesmen Brad Lazarowich and Shane Heyer.  It’s Heyer who escorts Torres off immediately after his dangerous hit. 

“[He’s the] same player every year. I played with the guy. He needs to learn how to hit. That has no part in our game any more.” – Ryan Kesler on the hit by Raffi Torres

Rule 48 – Illegal Check to the Head

When it comes to Illegal Checks to the Head, there’s no provision for a major penalty. It’s either a minor or a match penalty.  Per the NHL rulebook:

48.1 Illegal Check to the Head – A hit resulting in contact with an opponent’s head where the head was the main point of contact and such contact to the head was avoidable is not permitted


48.5 Match Penalty – The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a match penalty if, in his judgment, the player attempted to or deliberately injured his opponent with an illegal check to the head. 

If deemed appropriate, supplementary discipline can be applied by the Commissioner at his discretion.

Match penalties also require immediate suspension per Rule 21.2:

In addition to the match penalty, the player shall be automatically suspended from further competition until the Commissioner has ruled on the issue.

Because of this, Torres will remain suspended until a determination is made. The Sharks’ preseason has come to an end; their regular season begins on Wednesday, October 7.  Don’t expect to see Torres in the lineup on opening night. 

Not ‘Repeat Offender’ but Lengthy Rap Sheet

While he’s not a ‘repeat offender’ under the terms of the CBA, that designation only applies to how fines and salary losses are calculated. His entire suspension history will be considered when determining his suspension. It’s quite a history that amounts to over 30 games lost to suspensions due to hits to the head. 

Torres has been fined and suspended in the past for rough play.  In April 2011, he was suspended four games for a hit to the head of Edmonton’s Jordan Eberle.  The following season, he was fined $2,500 for hitting Avs forward Jan Hejda in the head with a forearm. Two days later, a hit to the head of Minnesota’s Nate Prosser earned Torres a two-game suspension. In the 2012 playoffs, Torres was suspended 25 games – later reduced to 21 – for a jumping hit to the head of Chicago’s Marian Hossa.  The following postseason, Torres once again found himself sidelined for the playoffs; the Sharks forward hit Kings center Jarrett Stoll with an illegal check to the head and was suspended for the second round of the postseason. 

Back in 2003, Torres said, “I feel like I can do more out there than just go out and run around and be an idiot.” Perhaps he can, but on Saturday night, he didn’t prove otherwise.   With his long history of headshots – and subsequent suspensions – he may be running out of chances to do so.

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