There are two very different sides to Raffi Torres.
In a Canucks jersey, the third line stalwart plays ugly. He’s in the corners throwing his weight around; he’s a punishing customer with only one gear. Attitude isn’t actually Torres’ middle name, but you wouldn’t know it from the 76 games he’s played this season during his first tour of duty on the West Coast.
Without the armor, Torres still comes off as gruff, his tattoos leading to the natural assumption that once the sun goes down, he leads a reckless rockstar lifestyle.
Get to know Torrres, and the story behind his tattoos, and everything changes. The agitator stays on the ice, he’s a dedicated husband and father off of it who gives new meaning to wearing your heart on your sleeve.
Here are six things you should know about Raffi’s ink.
“My first one was a reflection of my heritage for my mom and my dad, it’s a Mexican flag with an eagle. The roses symbolize my family, then it’s my daughter’s name, Kaytlin, the date she was born, 12-03-09, and a star for her, then I got an angel piece of my wife. Everything means something to me. I’ve got pretty much a full arm and then another half arm, I’ll be finishing the full arm with some colour this summer.”
Editor’s Note: Torres has six different tattoo groups split between his arms, two of which he didn’t mention. Underneath the eagle in front of the Mexican flag is an unfinished sugar skull, while Torres’ left forearm is inked with his last name.
FIRST THE WORST
“I just didn’t want to just go in there and get any old tattoo; I put a lot of thought into it. We both came up with the design for the flag and eagle. I came to him with the ideas and he came to me with a couple of drawings and it took like four or five drawings before we nailed it; the whole process took about two months. The first one was the most painful. I was in the chair for 11 hours and we had one break. The artist, his name is Tommy Helm (Empire State Tattoo Studio), he has three bookings throughout the day and my appointment was four hours, but he had cancellation on the second, so he cancelled his third and we finished it all in one day. It was a pretty wild experience. I was in so much pain, but there were so many people around, I couldn’t act like a baby. It was a pretty fun experience. It was 2000, I was about 21 and I was playing in Bridgeport at the time so it took two hours to get both ways. It was nuts.”
GETTING TO KNOW YOU
“I know some people look at it like why would you do something like that and sometimes I even look at guys with tattoos and I’m like why would you do something like that, but for me, I just love sitting in the chair and getting to know the person tattooing you and building a little bit of a bond. They’re putting permanent stuff on your body, so it’s not like I walk in there on the first day and get them to do something for me. I feel them out for a while and I’ve got a great guy right now in Markham, my hometown, we have a great relationship and he’ll be doing my ink, who knows, for the next 20 years.”
“Is it addictive? Yes and no. There’s some point where it feels great, but there’s some points where you’re just thinking, what did I get myself into, especially when he’s hitting on a bone or some flabby skin or something like that. There’s some spots like under your arm that are pretty painful, the outlining is pretty painful, the colouring is not so bad. But it’s not about the process or showing off my tattoos. For me, I cover them up as much as I can, it’s not like me to really show off, if anything I show them off to my family, I like to talk to them about them and stuff like that. My younger brother has pretty close to a sleeve getting done so we’re both pretty into it. It means a lot to us.”
“My favourite would have to be the one for my daughter, it’s the simplest one but it’s one that I was the most excited about getting. I was more excited about getting it than the first one I ever got. It’s just her name and the day she was born and I put a little star for her like a little star was born. The red roses above it signify my daughter and my wife and then the blue one is me; blue for a boy.”
MORE, MORE, MORE
“Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, there will be more. I’ve got a few plans but they’re still in the works. There’s some things you do and there’s some things you don’t do. Getting one on my face, that probably won’t happen unless I lose it like Mike Tyson, but I don’t think I will. I’m trying to keep them simple, keeping them for my family and me. Hopefully one day I can find a person who does portraits that look like pictures and I’ll be able to get all my kids pictures on my body somewhere.”