Torres’ appeal process sheds light on NHLPA’s vote of no confidence for league rulings

As the Phoenix Coyotes march on in the 2012 NHL Playoffs, their sideshow issues continue to travel with them. This week suspended forward Raffi Torres requested an appeal for the ruling on his hit against Chicago Blackhawks’ forward Marian Hossa. In the original ruling, Torres was given a 25 game suspension for the hit. The ruling became the largest ban handed out by Brendan Shanahan and caught the attention of the NHL Players Association.

After the request was filed, TSN legal analyst Eric Macramalla broke down some of the interesting points in the appeal over at his law sports blog: Offside. In his reporting, Macramalla states that Torres isn’t appealing the fact that he was suspended, but rather the length and the “unfair” nature of the process. It is worth noting a few things from the appeal:

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 defense.

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”.

This is one of the few times that the NHLPA has publicly addressed their lack of confidence in the power, responsibility, and intentions held by NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan. If the bulk of rulings continue to fall to one man it will lead to more problems for the league. The NHL is currently following in the National Football League’s footsteps. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is the judge, jury, and executioner of all disciplinary issues for his league. In his latest rulings involving the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal, the NFLPA has begun to challenge the Goodell rulings and ultimately wants a new appeals process. What the NFLPA failed to do while negotiating their new CBA, was to account for the governing body that controls all the disciplinary issues. It seems to be their own fault for handing all the power over to their commissioner. Unlike the NFL, the NHLPA will likely bring disciplinary action as one of their main focal points in the new CBA negotiations this summer.

What does this all mean for Shanahan?

It wouldn’t be out of place to say that Shanahan’s current role with the league is slowly coming to an end. In what started as a breath of fresh air in the preseason has crumbled to rubble due to outside pressure from multiple sources. That pressure has ultimately caused inconsistency league wide, resulting in the NHLPA to become heavily involved in the discipline ruling process – something that the league didn’t want at all.