So news last night was that Montrealers were flooding police lines with demands that the police investigate the Zdeno Chara hit on Max Pacioretty. Air Canada has also threatened to pull its sponsorship from the NHL if the NHL doesn’t take things more seriously with headshots, turnbuckle-rides and such. This ironically comes on the 7th anniversary of the Todd Bertuzzi mugging of Steve Moore, which is back in the news yet again.
For those of you who live in a cave, or who have been serving in whatever war/cause of the week out there and turn to “The Foil” for your major news (dumbasses!), Chara absolutely destroyed Pacioretty with a hit that sent him face first into the “turnbuckle” (the padded part of the glass partition at the end of the Bruins bench. Pacioretty had dumped the puck into the Bruins zone a second or two before Chara cut him off and sent him into the stanchion. Pacioretty laid on the ice, motionless and unconcious, for several minutes while the training staff looked him over and the stretcher was brought out. Chara received a 5-minute major interference penalty and a game misconduct for the late and dangerous hit. He received no suspension for the play. Meanwhile, Pacioretty suffered a severe concussion and a fractured vertebra on the hit.
OK, so let’s establish one thing… the hit was dangerous. Malicious? I suppose that is arguable, but it’s not at all definite. Suspendable? I thought so. Perhaps a couple of games, at least (so the lack of suspension did surprise me). Criminal charge worthy? Absolutely not. I can’t believe that’s even being considered. I don’t want to get into a Don Cherry-like rant here, but hockey is a dangerous sport… hits like this happen often enough. Did Jack Johnson receive charges for riding Smyth into the turnbuckle? What about the unquestionably sportsmanlike Niklas Lidstrom, who steered Tom Wandell up, back-first, into the turnbuckle?
Really, I’m going to quote the ever-favorite playa’ line… “don’t hate the player.. hate the game”. It’s ridiculous for Montrealers to suggest that the Montreal Police charge Chara for the hit. Really, the fault lies in rink construction. I think steps will be taken in the future to improve rink design so that players can’t be destroyed by turnbuckle hits. I’d suggest even something as simply as angling the end glass at a 45 (or more) degree angle from the boards (as opposed to the current 90 degrees) to allow for a player to follow through, rather than abruptly stopping like a car crash and absorbing 100% of the damage. Another idea that has been suggested by others is to add curvature to that partition of glass. At any rate, my belief is that the NHL should take Pacioretty’s injury very seriously and impose another rink re-design (referring to the netting that was added after that 13 year old girl died from being struck by a puck), and improve those turnbuckle areas.
As mentioned earlier, this is also the 7th anniversary of the Todd Bertuzzi sucker punch of Steve Moore. Thanks to Chucker for bringing the article to my attention that this lawsuit is about to pick up again. Moore’s lawyer wanted to wait to fully assess the longterm effects of the injury that Moore suffered, undoubtedly to add much more substance to their case. As the article states, we aren’t likely to see the case pick up again until next year, but with all this talk in the NHL about headshots, it’s almost ironic (in a bad way though) that Pacioretty’s career was in question on the anniversary of the Bertuzzi/Moore incident (Pacioretty admitted he was contemplating quitting hockey). I won’t even compare the severity of the Bertuzzi/Moore incident with the Chara/Pacioretty incident, as they’re not even in the same ballpark. However, Pacioretty is pretty lucky he will be playing hockey again in the future, unlike Moore, who not only had his hockey life come to an end, but has struggled in his non-hockey life with this injury as well.
So any time a big injury like this occurs – a skate blade to skin… an elbow to the head… hits from behind… a turnbuckle ride… a knockout punch – the league will be under fire to make changes to the game to protect its players. Truth be told, this kind of stuff has been happening for decades. It doesn’t make it any more right, however. I am fully on board with the NHL imposing stiffer penalties, and putting protections in place (see: change in glass partitions). However, lawsuits for hits like Chara’s? No thank you. Count me out on that. Bertuzzi is a special case, as it was very pre-meditated. I don’t think Bertuzzi intended to end Moore’s career though, and I won’t get into that debate again, but Chara’s hit is still a far cry from what happened between Vancouver/Colorado. The on-ice discipline will work just fine here.