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On hitting players with their heads down

May 16, 2013, 3:14 PM EDT

Given his history and the fact he has an in-person hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety today, Raffi Torres will probably be suspended for an illegal check to the head of Jarret Stoll of the Los Angeles Kings in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinal series on Tuesday.

Raffi Torres Hits Jeret Stoll Reverse Angle -Western Conf. Semifinal 5.14.2013 - Created at

If the NHL does decide to suspend Torres, not everyone will agree with the decision.

In fact, many — Sharks captain Joe Thornton, for one — will blame Stoll for putting himself in harm’s way.

“It almost seems like the player getting hit has no responsibility at all right now,” Thornton said. “In that case, I think Jarret probably wasn’t expecting to get hit, and it just looked like a clean hit. It seems right now that the responsibility is on the hitter, and not the receiver right now.”

But if anyone should know the risk of hitting a player with his head down, it’s Torres. In April of 2011, he nailed Edmonton’s Jordan Eberle and got a four-game ban (video).

As you can see from the images below, the two plays shared some key similarities.

Here’s Torres, right before he hit Stoll:


Here’s Torres, right before he hit Eberle:


In both cases, the player Torres hits is leaning forward and in a vulnerable position.

Now, it used to be that the player with his head down was 100 percent to blame if he got run over. Everyone who’s played the game has been told to keep their head up at all times, and young players are still told that.

But players are told to do a lot of things; it doesn’t mean they do those things all the time.

Torres, perhaps more than any other big hitter in the NHL today, is famous for pouncing the instant someone lets his guard down.

Whether you think it’s right or wrong, the NHL has made it clear that hitting players with their heads down can result in a suspension if the head is the principal point of conduct. And when a player has his head down, the head is more likely to be the principal point of conduct.

So Torres has a decision to make — does he keep doing what he’s doing and keep risking suspensions, or does he start letting up a bit when he sees an unsuspecting player in the trolley tracks?

  1. jjregan21 - May 16, 2013 at 3:22 PM

    Scott Stevens would be ashamed of this post

    • Jason Brough - May 16, 2013 at 3:27 PM

      The post is just the facts.

      • jjregan21 - May 16, 2013 at 3:29 PM

        Yeah, that wasn’t a dig on you as a writer, more towards the direction in which the NHL is going

  2. imleftcoast - May 16, 2013 at 3:25 PM

    He picks the worst times to make himself the center of distraction: Seabrook hit, Hossa hit and now this when the Sharks are rolling. He was key in the Vancouver series, and now he could be out for 4 games or the series. It’s not his worst hit, and most guys would get a game or no suspension. Given his history, I think the NHL should make it for the remainder of the series, and finally send a message.

    • jpelle82 - May 16, 2013 at 4:24 PM

      i think the 10 games he got for the hossa hit shouldve been the message, i dont know what else they can do to him at this point to get through to him

      • scoocha - May 16, 2013 at 5:50 PM

        Here’s the message: outlaw hits of any kind. That way we don’t have to debate suspension time, etc. The hit was legal and everyone knows it. I thought hockey was a tough guy sport?
        This is just another example of leveling the playing field/everyone gets a trophy society that is destroying the US/Canada and sports as we know them.

  3. bcisleman - May 16, 2013 at 3:27 PM

    Ummm Jason, Raffi has the rep of getting caught & punished for this kind of behavior. If Dustin Brown were c alled & suspended for this kind of hit consistently, he’d have a LONG reord of suspensions. “Stars” get free passes for this stuff, Raffi doesn’t.

    • kicksave1980 - May 16, 2013 at 6:51 PM

      I really don’t like Raffi Torres, and I do like Dustin Brown, but you’re absolutely right. This suspension is ridiculous, and Brown hammers someone who has their head down every night. As he should. I’ve never been one to either listen or talk about conspiracy theories, but the league is making it really hard with the disparity they’re showing between players.

      A lot of people here on the site grew up playing hockey. For people who grew up playing the game, one of the very first skills that you’re taught is to NEVER stickhandle with your head down. As light as the sticks are these days, you shouldn’t ever have to look at the ice because the feel of the puck is so much more apparent with the composite sticks. Raffi Torres is an idiot, and his reputation is well-earned, but this suspension is absolutely ridiculous. How could Stoll NOT have seen him coming if he had his head up? And if he had it down, it’s definitely his own fault.

      • manchestermiracle - May 16, 2013 at 8:33 PM

        Apparently you haven’t watched the video.

  4. mehetmet - May 16, 2013 at 3:45 PM

    The NHL needs to be more consistent though, and not make calls/decisions based on injury.

    I’d be perfectly fine if they did like the NFL and said “No hits to the head. Period.” But then they would have to enforce it, whether done intentionally or not, whether by Sid the kid, Dustin Brown, Torres, Kaleta, Hossa, Datsyuk, Stamkos, Weber, Clutterbuck, etc.

  5. jpelle82 - May 16, 2013 at 3:50 PM

    nothing wrong with a good old fashioned hip check on a guy with his head down…we should see more of that in my opinion. i dont like the idea of a guy getting away with watching his pass or watching the puck while he skates with it. i think if you are putting yourself in a vulnerable position then you should still have to pay for it, torres is doing it all wrong though

    • ron05342 - May 16, 2013 at 3:59 PM

      Yeah, let’s play good old fashioned hockey like in the old days, yeah!!!

      I remember several instances in the old days where players would swing their sticks at opposing players’ heads, sometimes connecting with sickening cracks. But hey, its old-fashioned hockey! The best of the best!!!

      Come on, guy. This is 2013 and there is no place for a guy like Raffi Torres in the NHL. He needs to be perma-banned.

      And your statement at the end there about Torres is doing it all wrong, I have no idea what you are babbling about.

      • jpelle82 - May 16, 2013 at 4:07 PM

        i’m not defending torres at all. i said he’s doing it wrong because he is hitting people in the head. what part didnt you get? until they ban hip checks why wouldnt you throw them instead?

  6. sjsharks66 - May 16, 2013 at 4:08 PM

    So Stoll and Eberle were both in vulnerable positions. I don’t understand how it is not partially your fault to keep yourself out of dangerous situations. There is a hockey game going on. You get hit in hockey.

    They need to start putting the blame 50-50 on players in this situation.

  7. pitpenguinsrulez - May 16, 2013 at 4:11 PM

    March 7th, 1998: The day Darius Kasparaitis put Eric Lindros in his place….fast forward 2 years later Scott Stevens put Lindros back in his place again.

    • jpelle82 - May 16, 2013 at 4:22 PM

      you were 4 yrs old then right?

  8. sjsharks66 - May 16, 2013 at 4:30 PM

    10 games? You mean 25 games reduced to 21 games right?

  9. valoisjoeybfeld69 - May 16, 2013 at 4:50 PM

    Thornton is an imbecile. It’s a blind sided hit. You’ve got to see the guy coming to protect yourself.

    • dt58 - May 16, 2013 at 4:51 PM

      Ya, what does Thornton know about playing hockey compared to you…

      • valoisjoeybfeld69 - May 16, 2013 at 5:10 PM

        What do you know about me? And if he’s soooooooooooooooooo smart and right because he plays in the NHL, then why is Stool out, and why will Torres be suspended? It’s a hit to the head . So, get your out of you know what.

      • dt58 - May 16, 2013 at 5:17 PM

        Stoll is out because he had his head down. Torres will be suspended because he has a reputation for doing stupid sh!t. And, I know you don’t play in the NHL and Thornton does. Maybe challenge him to a game of EA NHL… You do know that there is a difference between blind sided hits and hits from behind right?

      • valoisjoeybfeld69 - May 16, 2013 at 5:17 PM

        And G.W. Bush, President of the World’s biggest super power was……………… yes what for it, an imbecile.

      • valoisjoeybfeld69 - May 16, 2013 at 5:25 PM

        dt58, what is EA NHL. I’m not familiar with that sport. Is this game played in doors? What does the difference between a blind sided hit and a hit from behind have to do with this thread? So, the NHL will suspend Torres because of his reputation, but not because Stool clearly put his face into Torres’ shoulder? Great logic there G.W.

      • dt58 - May 16, 2013 at 5:37 PM

        It’s Stoll genius, stool is something you sit on. Well, blind side hits AREN’T illegal and hitting from behind is (read your orginal post). So if a player is not looking and gets hit its HIS fault, not the hitter. Torres shoulder did hit Stolls head, did he jump or was Stoll bent over/leaning forward?

      • valoisjoeybfeld69 - May 16, 2013 at 6:04 PM

        His shoulder made direct contact with Stool’s head. That means a suspension.

  10. dt58 - May 16, 2013 at 4:50 PM

    Pretty soon it’s going to be 10 guys skating in circles hugging each other so nobody gets hurt. The player being hit has to have some responsibility in this. If not, what you’re telling all the young players is skate with your head down because you can’t get hit. Did that sound just as dumb to you when you read that last statement as it did to me when typing it?

  11. sjsharks66 - May 16, 2013 at 5:17 PM

    Did anyone laugh when they read Jarret Stool?

    • nyrnashty - May 16, 2013 at 6:57 PM

      I did, but the punch line is the Stool is more productive!

  12. drewsylvania - May 16, 2013 at 6:07 PM

    The NHL has made it clear that a suspension “can” result? Nice sentence.

    By their ruling on Stuart-Landeskog, Torres should get nothing. But he’ll get games.


  13. columbiannecktie - May 16, 2013 at 6:39 PM

    You can hit guys with their heads down all day long, just hit them in their bodies, not their heads. This is a really simple concept people, if you can’t wrap your mind around it maybe you’re just too f*cking dumb to play hockey.

    • drewsylvania - May 16, 2013 at 6:49 PM

      You sure sound like you never played yourself, if you don’t see how this happens.

  14. nyrnashty - May 16, 2013 at 6:40 PM

    Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaay why are tickets more expensive when the game has been watered down? Shanahan used to be a cool player, now he sucks sausages! I see all these 5-10 160ish pound players in the game now lol NHL is like a local mens league in the summer when kids are back from college. NHL used to be a combination of skill and grit. Girls will be playing in the league in 5 years!

  15. nyrnashty - May 16, 2013 at 6:48 PM

    Lindros had all the skill in the world and he was huge, but the beauty of the game then was not even he was invincible. Now you see all these little kid like players like Jeff Skinner skating around the ice and people thinking that he’s good. He might have lasted a year or two in the NHL not too long ago. That’s the beauty of hockey you need more than skill to play at the highest levels, or at least it used to be! Now there’s more Joe’s than pros. I’m done with this topic.

  16. andyreidisfat - May 16, 2013 at 8:58 PM

    Yeah, this is pretty simple for me. I say this as someone who got more than few concussions in high school which cost me a free college playing hockey…. The hit was clean. They tell you from age 5 to keep your head up, extra especially when you have/just had the puck.

    I am a huge flyers fan, but I hold zero ill will against Scott Stevens hit on lindross (I have I’ll will because he was a devil, but that’s another story).

    If I was that young mans teammate all I would say is #13 bud ….

    Now if someone wants to talk about the pads being to big and to plastic which makes these hits career threatening instead of a guy not finishing a game or even being ok, then lets have that converstation. Guys skating around in linebacker style shoulder pads with thick plastic plates covering the pad is kinda nuts when you think about. The lack of protection in the past is why injuries on these hits happened less, the same with football. IMO it’s still the problem with the goalies, way to much pad on these guys. The talent level in the NHL has never been higher. Talent like Crosby and Malkin, stamkos, giroux, the list goes on and on. Why do we not have guys getting 150 points a season and yet the game may have never been more set up for offense ever ??

    • sporkov - May 17, 2013 at 3:10 PM

      andyreidisfat, second point is spot on; first point has some holes. I agree with keeping your head up, but you know that is not possible or logical some times. But it is always possible to not hit someone in the head.

  17. sporkov - May 17, 2013 at 3:14 PM

    Might be time to put Raffi out to pasture.

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