The last time we saw Raffi Torres on NHL ice in game action was last spring. The Phoenix Coyotes forward had just launched himself into Chicago Blackhawks star Marian Hossa, leaving the playmaking forward motionless on the ice.
It was clear to anyone who had seen the hit that the NHL needed to come down hard on Torres for the despicable hit, with the hopes that a lengthy suspension would finally get the message through the skull of Torres. It certainly wasn’t the first time he had taken liberties on the ice, and his past gave no reason to be his last.
Now, as Torres gets set to miss the first eight games of the truncated 2013 season after being leveled with a 25-game suspension (later reduced to 21 games) last spring, he claims that he is a changed man. The message, it would appear, has finally been heard.
“I can’t afford to go through something like that again,” Torres told azcentral.com “There are some things that I’m going to have to change if I want to keep playing in this league at a competitive level, so I look forward to it. I know I can bring more to the game than just physical play.”
Of course, what Torres had been doing was more egregious than simply “physical play.” His suspension history dates further back than the concussing Hossa hit, and Brendan Shanahan cited Torres’ checkered past as part of his reasoning for such a long suspension.
That suspension, which likely won’t be limited even with a shortened season, has helped Torres see the light — or so he says.
“I don’t think it’s going to be reduced,” Torres said. “I’ve gone through this in my head and at home with my family. Whenever it’s time to get started, that’s when it is.”
Phoenix head coach Dave Tippett agrees, saying Torres can still plays with an edge, but must do so without the “recklessness.”
If Torres needs any sort of a “role model” for his cleansing, he need look no further than Penguins forward Matt Cooke. The Pittsburgh winger is also a repeat visitor to the principal’s office, enough so that he also vowed to change his style of play. He did a pretty good job of keeping his nose clean last season, too, registering only 44 penalty minues, after averaging 112 PIMs per season in the three seasons prior.
“The game’s changed a little bit the last few years,” Torres told the website. “Obviously I’ve got to realize that, and the utmost importance these days is the safety of the other players. I don’t want to go through something like that again.”
Saying the right thing is a good first step for Torres, but no one is going to believe that he has truly changed as a player until he is able to show it on the ice.