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Raffi Torres's hitting history about to catch up with him

Vancouver Canucks' Raffi Torres arrives for a flight to Boston at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., on Saturday June 11, 2011. The Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins play game 6 of the NHL's Stanley Cup Final Monday. Vancouver leads the best-of-seven game series 3-2.


NHL discipline is nothing new for Raffi Torres.

Nothing new at all.

In fact, league vice-president Brendan Shanahan may as well have the Phoenix Coyotes winger on speed dial to call up at a moment's notice for times like Tuesday night's dangerous hit that sent Marian Hossa to the hospital.

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This isn't just a repeat offender in line for a stiffer suspension than he received the last time around. No, Torres is your typical case of a rerererepeat offender – and that's just looking at the past calendar year.

To really wrap your head around just how badly the NHL has missed on disciplining Torres, look no further than his last suspension, for a hit on Minnesota Wild defenceman Nate Prosser that came with a two-game ban in early January.

From Shanahan's own video explanation, only four months ago, for why Torres was suspended after – shockingly – leaving his feet:

"It is important to note that this was the third game in a row Torres has gotten the attention of the department of player safety for contact to the head. In fact only, hours before the Minnesota game, Torres was fined and warned against such actions. In addition, Torres has been fined for illegal hits twice before in his 10-season NHL career and was suspended nine months ago for a similar play."

Third... game... in a row.

This one was the initial warning, even though it likely deserved a suspension.

This one was the fine, where the opposing player ducked at the last minute.

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And this one was the suspension, which looks a bit like the Hossa hit as Torres attains liftoff right before he makes contact.

(There there's this one, which was also a small fine back in 2007.)

The incredible thing about Torres isn't necessarily his previous suspensions, as there aren't that many; it's the times the league either warned him or fined him a piddly $2,500 and considered that a job well done.

Or when they overlooked hits altogether like the one he put on Brent Seabrook in last year's playoffs in a hugely controversial incident that wasn't punished.

Torres is an interesting case because he doesn't hit particularly often (128 times this season, tied for 112th by the league's unreliable count), but he hits as hard as anyone.

So when he throws one of these borderline checks, it can do significant damage.

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It's very clear that Shanahan has had a close eye on Torres for a while, likely dating back to the Seabrook hit that drew so much attention, and was probably trying to prevent another Matt Cooke situation.

It hasn't yet worked in part because Torres hasn't been hammered with a big suspension for the right infraction, with the hit against Boston that drew only a minor penalty and a warning standing out as a perfect example.

That's going to finally be coming now, as in this environment, where there've been eight suspensions in the first seven days of the playoffs, a repeat offender will not get off easy.

My guess is this will be the longest suspension of Torres's career, one that's really been a year in the making and that will be roundly criticized no matter how long it goes.

But the NHL had a few golden opportunities here to send a clearer message several months ago, and they blew it.

Marian Hossa is paying for that. And, in a way, Torres is, too, as he'll be the scapegoat of the week for a much larger problem at the league level.

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