Friday, May 4, 2012

Offside Exclusive: Review of Raffi Torres Appeal Documents

I have secured a copy of the NHLPA’s request for an appeal of the Raffi Torres 25 game suspension for his hit on Marian Hossa. As per Article 18.5 and Exhibit 8 (3)(f) of the CBA, the decision is being appealed to the Commissioner. Ultimately, the NHLPA is challenging the length of the suspension, while also taking the position that the manner in which the hearing was conducted was unfair.

Here are the important points:

(a) Torres is not appealing the NHL’s decision that his hit on Hossa constituted a violation of the rules. Rather, he is appealing the length of his suspension.

(b) Torres is taking the position that the 25 game suspension is “excessive and arbitrary”. It is argued that the suspension is “more than double the length of any ever issued by Brendan Shanahan and is one of the longest suspensions in the history of the NHL”.

(c) Shanahan denied Torres’s request that he be permitted to view video evidence of similar or worse hits and how they “have been treated in the past”. This precluded Torres from making out a full defence.

(d) Torres is requesting an in-person hearing so that he may “present this evidence to the Commissioner”.

(e) The NHLPA is noting that a “de novo” standard should be applied to the appeal. The phrase “de novo” is a Latin term that means “anew” or “afresh”. When this standard is applied, the case is heard all over again as if it had not previously been tried. The de novo standard of review may be applied to the law of the case, the facts of the case, or both.

(f) The NHLPA argues that supplementary discipline must be imposed by the NHL in a “consistent manner” so that players have a clear understand and expectation as to how on-ice transgressions will be treated by the league. In this case, in the view of the NHLPA, the ruling was not consistent with previous cases and the hearing and suspension “violated the very basic requirements of a fair process” which is a “matter of concern to all Players”.

Here is some more detail:

In its letter to the Commissioner, the NHLPA writes that Torres “regrets his actions” and is “extremely sorry for the injury caused to Marian Hossa. However, Mr. Torres does appeal and request review of the length of the disciplinary suspension imposed upon him” and “seeks an appropriate reduction”.

The NHLPA goes on to argue that supplementary discipline needs to be imposed in a “consistent manner” and that the “discipline imposed on Mr. Torres manifestly was not”.

The NHLPA has characterized the suspension as “excessive and arbitrary in that it is entirely inconsistent with the League’s past treatment of similar incidents”. The NHLPA also wrote as follows:

On several occasions during the 2011-2012 season, conduct of a similar or even more serious nature, including like conduct by repeat offenders, eventuated in markedly shorter suspensions. Other similar on-ice plays resulted in no discipline of any kind. Mr. Torres suspension also is more than twice as long as any other issued by the Department since its inception. Importantly, such a departure from established guidelines undermines the Department’s responsibility to provide all Players with objective and reliable standards by which their conduct will be assessed for disciplinary purposes.

During the hearing, the NHLPA intends to “present videotape evidence of recent incidents involving similar or more egregious misconduct that resulted in substantially less or no Player discipline”.

With a view to properly preparing for the appeal, the NHLPA has requested that the NHL provided it with all relevant information and documents, including things like emails, memos, notes of conversations and any summaries relating to the proceedings and any investigations.

As per Exhibit 8 of the CBA, the Commissioner “will endeavor to rule promptly on any such appeal”.


Anonymous said...

Nice of the NHLPA to protect Torres and put all other players in his sights as potential future victims.. IRONY

Anonymous said...

Did the NHLPA also offer Hossa a rep to present a victim impact statement? He pays dues to the same union.

Anonymous said...

The one thing that is not mentioned ANYWHERE in this brief is the fact that Torres has been suspended NUMEROUS TIMES for the EXACT same type of hits to the head! It also occurs to me that Marion is also a member of the NHLPA. I think this males what us happening a HUGE conflict of interest on the part of the NHLPA. Because of the repeated suspensions in Torres past has not changed his on ice actions the real question is what does the NHL do the next time???

Anonymous said...

If this pushes the NHLPA and league to more clearly define relationship of violation to consequence, good. It will be interesting to see if this is reflected in CBA negotiations. Player safety is important, no arguments. Justice cannot be arbitrary or it ceases to be justice.

chaas said...

It will be interesting to see how this appeal plays out. More important than the outcome is the fact that the PA is challenging how supplemental discipline works. Opinions vary as to whether the number of games is excessive or not, however this is not the first ruling to have the "arbitrary" tag applied to it. Many times there have been suspensions and it's left the fans wondering why the number of games were chosen.

On the other hand, this was the first heinous case Shannahan has faced, and while the NHL has certainly seen its fair share of horrible acts he must be allowed to set a precedent during his own tenure. In that light, prior similar convictions are meaningless.

The NHL lacks any particular standard when it comes to suspensions. There are arguments both for and against a standard suspension for particular offenses. While this appeal may or may not affect the length of Torres' suspension, based on the results there may be a standard in the future.