With the sports world on hold, Cronkite News will take a daily look at this day in sports history and reflect on some of the biggest moments in Arizona sports.
PHOENIX – It has been eight years since the Arizona Coyotes, still known as the Phoenix Coyotes at the time, last reached the NHL playoffs.
That memorable postseason run ended in the Western Conference finals when the Coyotes lost a best-of-seven series to the No. 8 seeded Los Angeles Kings, 4-1. The Kings went on to capture the Stanley Cup, but despite that heartbreaking loss, the Coyotes gave their fans lasting – albeit in one instance, infamous – memories.
That infamous moment came on a brutal, blindside shoulder hit by the Coyotes’ Raffi Torres that rocked Chicago’s Marian Hossa’s jaw in a first-round series against the Blackhawks.
Hossa was immediately carried off in a stretcher as he was unable to play the rest of the game. The hit caused Chicago players to bum rush Torres, who was not punished during the game, which the Coyotes won, 3-2, in overtime to gain a 2-1 series lead.
Initially, the NHL suspended Torres “indefinitely” for the hit as it tried to crack down on an especially violent postseason. Days later, on April 21, 2012, the NHL announced Torres would be suspended for 25 games.
“My main concern is for the healthy recovery of Marian Hossa, and I hope that he will be able to get back on the ice to compete again soon. I sincerely regret injuring Marian,” Torres said in a statement he released through the NHL Players Association at the time.
“Regarding the severity of the suspension issued, I will take the next few days to decide whether or not to appeal the decision.”
Brendan Shanahan, the NHL’s senior vice president at the time, was critical of Torres.
“While we acknowledge the circumstances of certain hits may cause a player’s skates to come off the ice, on this hit, Torres launches himself into the air before making contact,” Shanahan said. “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.”
The suspension was eventually reduced to 21 games, but it didn’t change the fact that Torres was done for the remainder of the playoffs. And it wouldn’t be the last time that Torres received a lengthy suspension for a dirty hit.
Torres was hit with an even lengthier suspension in 2015 for delivering a hit on Jacob Silfverberg in a preseason match against the Anaheim Ducks. By then, Torres was playing for the San Jose Sharks. This time, in part because of his violent history, the NHL suspended Torres for 41 games. It remains the longest suspension in NHL history.
Torres announced his retirement in November of 2016, ending a 15-year NHL career marred by injuries and questionable hits, including one that left an indelible mark on the history of the Coyotes.