Headshots, Turnbuckles and Sucker Punches, oh my..

By , March 10, 2011 11:32 am
Chara introduces Pacioretty's face to the stanchion

Chara introduces Pacioretty's face to the stanchion

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.

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22 Responses to “Headshots, Turnbuckles and Sucker Punches, oh my..”

  1. Racki says:

    And with that… the fuckin’ edit button plug-in was updated, and the problem is fixed now. Greattt success!

  2. Steve-O says:

    I don’t think it was a dangerous hit. It happened in a bad area, but the hit itself was fine. Anywhere else in the rink and we wouldn’t be talking about it.

    As for the 45 degree angling of the glass…I don’t see how that would work in regards with the players still being able to get in/out of the bench and the safety, viewing obstruction of the seats there…unless you remove a couple seats in that area which the owners will cry murder over.

  3. Racki says:

    Yah, I was definitely suggesting to removing seats from that area. I suppose the revenue from those extra 4 or so seats are much more important than your $7M superstar’s career, right?

  4. chucker says:

    He should have gotten a few games at least. He did make an illegal hit on a player that resulted in injury. Should have been a 3 gamer to me.

  5. victoriaoilerfan says:

    Racki: Yah, I was definitely suggesting to removing seats from that area. I suppose the revenue from those extra 4 or so seats are much more important than your $7M superstar’s career, right?

    Sad thing is that it will take losing a superstar before they will deal with such a simple issue to fix. This potentialy dangerous situation has been a concern for a long time just like no touch icings.
    But more importantly I think we need to address this threat by Air Canada to withdraw sponsorship unless the NHL deals with the violence issues.
    I can’t ever remember a huge company like Air Canada making such a threat in the past and I for one think they are very serious. If this doesn’t make the NHL nervous nothing will IMO.

  6. Steve-O says:

    The Air Canada thing will never happen. Elliotte Friedman mentioned that they would be walking away from something like 35 million that the teams pay to them…versus the maybe 5 mil they put into the league.

    If they did that over a NHL hit, and I was a shareholder, I’d fire the CEO.

    Edit: Well, it might happen, but if so I think it would hurt Air Canada way more than it would hurt the NHL. They would just switch to Westjet, or Delta or anything else that flys in the air.

  7. mrgod2u says:

    This happens anywhere but in Montreal and vs. the Bruins and it is back page news. Hit was clean IMHO, getting hit by Chara is like stepping in front of a bus, doesn’t need to get all of you to wreck you.

    Even Stephen Frigging Harper is riding this for Quebec votes. Ridiculous.

  8. Steve-O says:

    Campbell should suspend the arena for 3 games for a hit to the head.

  9. Racki says:

    mrgod2u:
    This happens anywhere but in Montreal and vs. the Bruins and it is back page news. Hit was clean IMHO, getting hit by Chara is like stepping in front of a bus, doesn’t need to get all of you to wreck you.

    Even Stephen Frigging Harper is riding this for Quebec votes.Ridiculous.

    Well, I don’t agree it all that it would be “back page news” if it happened elsewhere. Even in the worst market in the league, it still would have been a big story. However, I think if it happened to someone other than a Canadien, than yah, it wouldn’t likely have become a big political issue like now. You’re right, it was definitely overblown because of it happening to the Habs. But at the same time, maybe that’s not such a bad thing. I think the lawsuit/charges are ridiculous.. but I’m definitely on board with the league making the game more safe though. So fixing the partitions in the bench areas, removing touch-icing, coming down hard on the head-hunters, and all that.. I’m for that. Just leave the fucking politicians and lawyers out of it.

  10. mrgod2u says:

    The league has been making half-assed attempts to fix this for a while now. I think if they wanted it gone they would find a way. Maybe this is the final straw. If so great, but I still contend it was a clean hit (although it was interference). The piling on of politicians with agenda’s and corporations to help their image is just stupid as are the talk of legal implications. All this extra hoopla has me irritable about the whole thing.

  11. chucker says:

    Really? Chara hit him on an interference play and got five and a game because his hit was illegal.

    Fact: Chara hits Pacioretty on an hit that gets him five and a game that resulted in a MAJOR injury to a player who was not fair game to be hit. That has to get you more than the response”Chara’s big. Tough play, but nothing wrong with that.”

    That’s total crap. If Gillies had made that hit he’d be getting 40 games and don’t even for a second try to tell me otherwise. Chara was not suspended because he’s a star. I know he is a big guy and you are going to get hurt, but if it’s a high stick and you get five and game and it results in an injury with this magnitude, you’re getting suspended. Same if it’s ruled a boarding major. Perhaps different types of penalties, but I though he should have had a couple of games at the very least.

    ANY other regular player who makes this hit gets a suspension, especially if you’re not on the Boston Bruins chasing down first. What if MacI made that hit? Yeah. 40 games for goons, none for stars. Great league.

  12. Ktown says:

    The more I watch the replay, the more I think Chara should have at least got a minimum 2 games.

    Damn – if an all-star defenceman doesn’t realize where he is on the ice, then I think Boston needs to look at who their All-star defenceman really is. As well, right at the end (just before Pacioretty hits the turnbuckle) Chara gives a bit of an extra shove, and he’s damn-near looking right at the turnbuckle.

    When Chara says he didn’t mean to do it, I halfway believe him. I DON’T think he meant to just about break the guy’s neck, but I think he DEFINITELY meant to punish him.

    I’m not saying Chara’s a bad guy (and maybe this next comment shows that I in fact am a bad person) but I’ve been in situations in sports where I’ve had a chance to make some really nasty big hits and I’ve taken every one of them without hesitation. Am I thinking I want to kill a guy (seriously kill a guy)? no – but I am thinking that I want to make him hurt real bad.

    I think Chara meant to inflict pain and hurt on Pacioretty and given that he’s an all-star defenceman who had every clue where he was on the ice, I’m willing to bet a lot that he knew the turnbuckle was coming up and that it would help in the process.

    I TRULY don’t think he meant to break him into pieces and send him to the hospital. But in the end, it doesn’t matter what he meant versus what the outcome was.

    I don’t think Chara should be suspended for life, and I agree with you, Racki – I definitely don’t think there’s a need for the RCMP to get involved. The play was a tough hockey play that went VERY bad, but at the end of the day, it was still an illegal play, and the result was excessively violent. I think as a simple matter of saying, “get your heads outta your asses” the NHL should have leveled a 2 or 3 game suspension.

    Hell, what’s wrong with sending the message that being stupid and unlucky while trying to be violent is still wrong? When I pushed my little brother down the tobaggan hill, specifically in the direction of the forest, I didn’t want him to break his arm – I just wanted to see a pretty cool tobaggan crash. That still didn’t stop my dad from grounding me for two weeks, and putting the broken tobaggan in the fireplace. Consequences for actions, no matter intent. Stupidity is not justification.

  13. Racki says:

    Yah I think at minimum he should have received 2 games, at least. You want to send the right message, and not slap the face of a guy who just got hospitalized. I am not sure anyone is going to f— with Chara, but if it were a smaller player, I’d bet that there would be some ugly blood the next time the two teams met.

  14. hemmerlady says:

    Hit was late, and really stupid. Chara should know better than to hit someone in such a dangerous area of the rink. Honestly he broke the guy’s neck! I don’t think he meant to do such harm as Ktown said, but he should have known better than to hit the WAY he did, into the area he did. Awful.

    Suspension worthy – yes. More than just a couple of games IMO.
    Criminal charges – no. Ridiculous. Do hockey players expect to get a lullaby and a blankie? C’mon.
    Lawsuit – I think N. America is far too litigious, but I’d feel differently if this turns out to be a career-ending incident. Steve Moore can’t ever play hockey again, and that isn’t right – Bert can. It looks like Pacioretty will recover, right? So in this case a lawsuit would be overkill. Leave the enforcement to the appropriate jurisdiction, i.e. the league, who should have suspended Chara.

    Habs fans: I think you’re having a rougher year than you anticipated, I hear that. But you have to blame the source (NHL) and not get the cops involved. That’s dumb.

  15. victoriaoilerfan says:

    Racki: Yah I think at minimum he should have received 2 games, at least. You want to send the right message, and not slap the face of a guy who just got hospitalized. I am not sure anyone is going to f— with Chara, but if it were a smaller player, I’d bet that there would be some ugly blood the next time the two teams met.

    Great, so another possible brawl filled game. Just what the NHL needs. More ugly publicity to put on the news and sportcasts.
    I made the point about Air Canada earlier that they are “talking” about pulling their sponsershsip. I realize that is likely just talk, but talk is what I am worried about.
    My point is that it’s all bad press which is something the NHL doesn’t need.

  16. LateNightOilFan says:

    chucker: Really? Chara hit him on an interference play and got five and a game because his hit was illegal. Fact: Chara hits Pacioretty on an hit that gets him five and a game that resulted in a MAJOR injury to a player who was not fair game to be hit. That has to get you more than the response”Chara’s big. Tough play, but nothing wrong with that.” That’s total crap. If Gillies had made that hit he’d be getting 40 games and don’t even for a second try to tell me otherwise. Chara was not suspended because he’s a star. I know he is a big guy and you are going to get hurt, but if it’s a high stick and you get five and game and it results in an injury with this magnitude, you’re getting suspended. Same if it’s ruled a boarding major. Perhaps different types of penalties, but I though he should have had a couple of games at the very least. ANY other regular player who makes this hit gets a suspension, especially if you’re not on the Boston Bruins chasing down first. What if MacI made that hit? Yeah. 40 games for goons, none for stars. Great league.

    Exactly. This is insane, and the Bruins and Habs play once more too. The league would have been smart to just give Chara a couple games so they can recognize his responsibility for a dangerous play, otherwise they could have another Isles/Pens game where the Isles players felt the need to take matters into their own hands.

    People can argue about the legality of the hit, and some say that if it was on the boards it would be fine, but we don’t know that. On the boards, if Pac’s head hits those boards it’s termed illegal (i.e. Gillies on Clutterbuck). Also, it could be termed targetting the head into the turnbuckle. Chara had to be aware of where they were on the ice and he should be accountable and suspendable, whether its a first offence or not.

    Gillies would have been banned for life.

  17. Mr.Majestyk says:

    when did the refs decide to call the penalty? Its an illegal hit because its interference, but there are tons of plays in every game where the player dumps the puck in and tries to go after it and gets rubbed out and there’s no call. The 5 and a game was a reaction by the refs to the fact that there was an injury on the play. All that being said, I think a 2 game suspension would have been warranted just by the injury that resulted from the hit.

  18. chucker says:

    I think we might all agree that the NHL should have at least suspended him for a couple games. I do not think anyone in the league would have complained if he had been suspended for the hit.

    @ HL, let’s not be too hasty about Pacioretty’s ability to come back. These injuries take months and sometimes years to know the full effects.

    I think what happened here is Mike Smith dropped the ball in making a call that he’s not used to making. He’s the good goal/bad goal guy. Campbell recused himself because his son plays for Boston. Should have been at least a 2-4 game suspension and likely more to me.

  19. FastOil says:

    I don’t buy into the argument players don’ t know where they are or what they are doing. They do play at a very high pace, and I see the problem as being more instinctual or reaction based.

    That is not to say it’s subconscious – it’s still in the realm of decisive thought. What needs to change is the acceptable level of compete. Playing to the maximum now includes dangerous and overly aggressive hits, hits that many ex NHL’ers agree would not have been tolerated by other players in the past – read payback for disrespect and cheap shots.

    The league has never protected players well – thus the need for payback. It’s time to set meaningful limits, and within a season we will see just as much hitting and board play, minus the outright headhunting that is going on.

    The players insticts will quickly reset to the new level, just like with any rule change, and they will usually back off hits that are iffy. I highly doubt there would be any negative effects on the game, once everyone adjusted.

    These types of hits I think are more prevalent now, and always took away from the game when they did happen. Seeing Gretzky’s career being diminished (as well as Kariya’s) by the same late hitting, cross checking psycho did not appeal to my enjoyment of the physical side of hockey. It was just really vicious and violent in the wrong way, and in the case of Gretzky I couldn’t wait until Messier evened the deal, which I don’t think he ever did. Does the league need hacks malicously injuring the other players for the hockey to be good?

    It’s not hard to solve, it’s the resolve that’s hard.

  20. Racki says:

    First off, welcome to the Foil, FastOil… great first post too.

    I completely get what you’re saying too about a player’s instincts, and I agree too. I’m not so sure what it will take to de-program a player from thrusting a player face first into a stanchion (let’s not sugar coat it… Chara intended to push him into it, whether he meant to hurt him bad or not). Stiffer penalties are definitely an option.. as is dropping the instigator, but given the whole news about Probert’s brain being mush, I can’t see the latter ever happening. The league did say that man games lost due to concussions are down to 17% this season from 44% last year though, so that is at least good.

    I think they should look at equipment, the arena, and stiffer penalties.. these are all 3 things they are doing though and Bettman mentioned he’s committed to.

  21. chucker says:

    FastOil: I don’t buy into the argument players don’ t know where they are or what they are doing. They do play at a very high pace, and I see the problem as being more instinctual or reaction based.That is not to say it’s subconscious – it’s still in the realm of decisive thought. What needs to change is the acceptable level of compete. Playing to the maximum now includes dangerous and overly aggressive hits, hits that many ex NHL’ers agree would not have been tolerated by other players in the past – read payback for disrespect and cheap shots.The league has never protected players well – thus the need for payback. It’s time to set meaningful limits, and within a season we will see just as much hitting and board play, minus the outright headhunting that is going on.The players insticts will quickly reset to the new level, just like with any rule change, and they will usually back off hits that are iffy. I highly doubt there would be any negative effects on the game, once everyone adjusted. These types of hits I think are more prevalent now, and always took away from the game when they did happen. Seeing Gretzky’s career being diminished (as well as Kariya’s) by the same late hitting, cross checking psycho did not appeal to my enjoyment of the physical side of hockey. It was just really vicious and violent in the wrong way, and in the case of Gretzky I couldn’t wait until Messier evened the deal, which I don’t think he ever did. Does the league need hacks malicously injuring the other players for the hockey to be good? It’s not hard to solve, it’s the resolve that’s hard.

    Nice post. I’ll just add that Suter is a piece of dog crap. He was easily the dirtiest player of his era with maybe the exception of Chelios.

    The nice thing about Suter is that he got cross checked in the head on a regular basis. He even got one in that tournament when he hit Gretzky. Ironically, it was a Russian who did it to Suter though, but it was the game after that.

  22. Racki says:

    When Suter hit Gretzky from behind in the Canada Cup, I was fucking livid. I would have probably gone McSorely (on Brashear) on his ass for that… I was so hoping to see some revenge in the NHL, but I don’t think he ever got his, at least for that incident. That c—s—er damaged the Great One’s career, and I am still pissed off about it. His career is long over, but I still wish no well for Gary Suter.

    It actually still stings as much as Peter Pocklington orchestrating his trade, oddly.

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