NEW YORK -- The NHL has dropped the hammer on Raffi Torres.
The league suspended the Phoenix Coyotes winger 25 games Saturday for his hit that injured Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa.
The announcement was made hours before the Coyotes had a chance to eliminate Chicago in Game 5 of their first-round series.
Torres left his feet to hit an unsuspecting Hossa during Game 3 on Tuesday night, sending the Blackhawks winger smashing to the ice.
Hossa was taken off on a stretcher and hasn't appeared again in the series.
"Torres launched himself to deliver a late, direct hit to the head of Chicago forward Marian Hossa," NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan said in a video statement. "After the puck is poked off Hossa's stick, he turns towards the middle of the ice. As Hossa turns to recover the loose puck ... it is clear (Torres) sees that Hossa is no longer in possession of the puck because Torres takes a one-handed swipe at it with his stick.
"Torres then leaps into the air and drives his left shoulder into Hossa's head. This is a violation of three NHL rules: interference, charging and illegal check to the head."
It's the third time Torres has been suspended by the NHL for a questionable hit in the last 13 months and Shanahan says that played a factor in the length of the ban.
"Despite knowing that Hossa no longer has the puck, Torres decides to finish his check past the amount of time when Hossa is eligible to be body checked," Shanahan said.
"While we acknowledge the circumstances of certain hits may cause a player's skates to come off the ice," he added, "on this hit, Torres launches himself into the air before making contact. ... 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."
If the 25 games aren't exhausted during the playoffs -- the Coyotes would need to play four straight seven-game series to complete the suspension -- the ban carries over into the next regular season. Torres would not be able to play in any pre-season games in that case.
As a repeat offender, Torres would forfeit US$21,341 in salary for every regular-season game he sits out.
Torres served the first game of the suspension Thursday while waiting for Friday's hearing with Shanahan.
Coyotes general manager Don Maloney thanked the NHL for a thorough review of the incident in a statement.
"The ruling is very severe for Raffi and our hockey club. Raffi plays a hard, physical game yet this contact crossed the line on what is acceptable in our game today," he said. "We hope Marian Hossa makes a full and speedy recovery as we all enjoy watching him perform."
The ban is the longest handed out by Shanahan, who suspended Columbus defenceman James Wisniewski for 13 games (five pre-season, eight regular season) in September.
The suspension is the longest in the league since New York Islanders forward Chris Simon was handed a 30-game ban for stomping on the ankle of Jarkko Ruutu in December 2007. Simon also sat out 25 games in March 2007 for slashing Ryan Hollweg in the head.
Philadelphia Flyers forward Jesse Boulerice served a 25-game suspension after cross checking Ryan Kesler in the face back in October 2007.
Torres had a goal and an assist and averaged over 19 minutes of ice time for Phoenix in the first three games of the series.
News of the suspension travelled quickly around the league.
"I just think the NHL is sick of it right now," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock told reporters in St. Louis. "I think they're tired of the predator-type hits."
Added Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma: "I think it's going to be probably the most talked-about thing throughout the locker-rooms today."
Torres didn't see a problem with a hit after Tuesday's game.
"First off, I hope (Hossa's) all right," he said at the time. "But as far as the hit goes, I felt like it was a hockey play, just trying to finish my hit out there."
That explanation didn't sit well with the Blackhawks, especially in light of the vicious hit Torres delivered on Chicago defenceman Brent Seabrook during last year's playoffs.
"It was the same thing when he was in Vancouver last year, he probably thought that was a hockey play too," said Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews. "There's no remorse at all I don't think with a guy like that. (There was) a guy carried off on a stretcher and he probably doesn't feel bad about it all.
"That's not hockey to me."
It wasn't hockey to Don Cherry either. The popular hockey commentator said on CBC's "Hockey Night in Canada" broadcast Wednesday that Torres should get a 10-game suspension.
"This to me is a cheap shot," Cherry said on his "Coach's Corner" segment. "(Hossa) never had a chance. It wasn't his fault. He was turning. The puck was already gone.
"You can't do that stuff. If you get caught in the trolley tracks and you have your head down with the puck you deserve it. But (Hossa) didn't deserve that."
The biggest thing that worked against Torres during the discipline process is his history: he was suspended four games in April 2011 for an illegal hit on Edmonton's Jordan Eberle; he was fined US$2,500 on Dec. 29 for elbowing Colorado's Jan Hejda; and he was banned two games on Dec. 31 for an illegal hit on Minnesota's Nate Prosser.
And that doesn't include the hit on Seabrook that controversially went unpunished by the league last spring.