Ice Hockey: San Jose Sharks’ Torres suspended 41 games for illegal check to the head

San Jose Sharks forward Raffi Torres will sit out the first half of the 2015/16 National Hockey League (NHL) season, the Department of Player Safety announced on Monday.

The 33-year-old has been suspended for 41 games following an interference call and an illegal hit to the head of Anaheim Ducks forward Jakob Silfverberg during the first period of a pre-season game at Honda Center on Saturday (October 3).

Torres caught the Swede off guard with a vicious elbow to the head. He was assessed a match penalty as a result – meaning he was ejected from the game and suspended for the next.

Silfverberg did not return to the ice after the play, having been left out for precautionary reasons.

Torres’ latest suspension is the most severe punishment from the NHL for on-ice discipline in almost eight years and is a move which is almost certain to catch the eye of players around the league.

It is also the second longest in the modern NHL era, behind a one-year suspension for Marty McSorley in 2000 when he hammered Donald Brashear, then a Vancouver Canuck, over the head with his stick and a lifetime ban for Boston’s Billy Coutu when he attacked a referee in 1927.

The last suspension of this severity handed down by the NHL was a 25 game suspension for New York Islanders forward Chris Simon for skate-stomping Pittsburgh’s Jarkko Ruutu in 2007.

Torres may appeal his latest suspension, his ninth for an illegal check to the head, to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. He previously appealed his 25-game suspension from a playoff game in April 2012, during which he illegally checked Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa in the head and as a result got his sentence reduced to 21 games. He served 13 of those in the playoffs before that sentence was reduced in the summer and then served another eight games at the beginning of the lockout-shortened 2012/13 season.

San Jose traded a third-round draft pick in order to acquire Torres on April 3 2013 and, in the beginning, his record wasn’t exactly clean. He earned another suspension for the remainder of the second round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs for a head shot on former Los Angeles Kings centre Jarret Stoll. He was then signed to a three-year contract extension.

Torres is now in the final year of that deal, earning $2.125million this season. However, under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and based on his average annual salary, he will forfeit $440,860.29, which will go to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

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