Zdeno Chara and the NHL’s big problem

I’m sure you’re sick of it already, the whole Zdeno Chara/Max Pacioretty thing. I’m getting there too. You’ve heard just about everyone’s opinion on it.

In today’s age of technology, reaction is almost instantaneous. When the ruling came out yesterday, I decided it’d be better to wait out the storm and sleep on it. I’m trying to be as objective as possible here, despite the fact that the ruling has a direct impact on tonight’s game between the Sabres and Bruins.

Steve Montador, a former teammate of Chara, was on WGR yesterday and talked about the hit. Montador said that Chara knew where he was on the ice. That’s incredibly damning, having a player who’s familiar with Chara suggest that he knew what he was doing.

Many of the arguments against supplemental discipline on the play were that it was a “hockey play” and Chara wouldn’t have known that the partition was there. Gary Green of On the Fly on NHL Network even suggested that Montador even had “ulterior motives” in those comments. Seriously?

Some players, speaking anonymously, think it wasn’t an unfortunate accident, as well. Pacioretty agrees. In an interview with TSN’s Bob McKenzie, he says there was intent.

“I heard (Chara) said he didn’t mean to do it. I felt he did mean to do it. I would feel better if he said he made a mistake and that he was sorry for doing that, I could forgive that, but I guess he’s talking about how I jumped up or something.”

“I believe he was trying to guide my head into the turnbuckle. We all know where the turnbuckle is. It wasn’t a head shot like a lot of head shots we see but I do feel he targeted my head into the turnbuckle.”

Looking at the still photo of impact, it would seem to support that claim. Chara’s hand is rubbing Pacioretty’s head right into the boards. Whether or not the partition gets him, Chara is obviously targeting his head.

The officials in the game properly penalized Chara for the play: five minutes for interference and a game misconduct. Many said that the penalty was too much, but those people obviously don’t read the rules. So, here is the rule

Rule 56 – Interference

56.4 Major Penalty – The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a major penalty, based on the degree of violence, to a player guilty of interfering with an opponent (see 56.5).

56.5 Game Misconduct Penalty – When a major penalty is imposed under this rule for a foul resulting in an injury of an opponent, a game misconduct shall be imposed.

There you go: it was a proper penalty. I don’t know if you can argue “degree of violence” in this instance.

Want to know the rub? When a player receives a game misconduct, there is an automatic fine attached.

But for NHL star Zdeno Chara? Let’s let Senior VP of Hockey Operations Mike Murphy tell us why he gets no suspension and no fine.

“After a thorough review of the video I can find no basis to impose supplemental discipline. This hit resulted from a play that evolved and then happened very quickly — with both players skating in the same direction and with Chara attempting to angle his opponent into the boards. I could not find any evidence to suggest that, beyond this being a correct call for interference, that Chara targeted the head of his opponent, left his feet or delivered the check in any other manner that could be deemed to be dangerous.  

“This was a hockey play that resulted in an injury because of the player colliding with the stanchion and then the ice surface. In reviewing this play, I also took into consideration that Chara has not been involved in a supplemental discipline incident during his 13-year NHL career.”

Yes, no supplemental discipline incidents. So, let me get this straight… since you’ve made exceptions in the past, that’s a qualification for making another? Why does any previous incident have any bearing on what happened in this incident?

The NHL is an absolute joke when it comes to disciplining players. Remember, this is the league that suspended a player for six games for referring to an ex-girlfriend as “sloppy seconds,” yet Joe Thornton of San Jose got two games for a blindside hit to the head that has cost St. Louis’ David Perron his season. Star treatment? Maybe. But look at the list of suspensions this season. There’s nothing significant applied to anyone who doesn’t play for the Islanders.

Hell, even earlier this season, on the same day it suspended Niklas Hjalmarsson just two games for boarding and knocking out Jason Pominville, it thought it was the proper punishment for James Wisniewski making an obscene gesture. So, in a sense, it’s worse to be a dick in this league than induce life-threatening injuries. Seeing Sean Avery talked about on Jim Rome is Burning for some funny comments is more embarassing to the league than seeing an unconscious player being put on a stretcher, apparently. Good to know where the priorities are, boys.

It’s a joke. Someone is going to die on the ice. The league is doing nothing to discourage this behavior, they’re actually justifying it. It was a “hockey play” and Chara couldn’t do anything about it, he wasn’t aware of where he was. Hell, Zdeno even said that Pacioretty “jumped” trying to get around him, like he initiated his own injury. Really?

I mean, come on. How does this league take itself seriously?

When Murphy’s driving down the road on the way to work, does he just go the same speed the whole way? Or does he recognize speed limit signs on the side of the road and drive accordingly? Of course, he ignores it. He’s too focused on driving! The location of his action has nothing to do with his action, right? That’s what this situation is, correct?

I’m glad for Max Pacioretty that he’s alive. There’s a chance he’ll never play again, and that’s a shame. A broken neck could’ve been much worse. But it wasn’t. And the guy who did it to him didn’t mean to, so it’s no big deal. We can all move on.

Until it happens again.

Posted on March 10, 2011, in Sabres/NHL and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Also, Chara was suspended in 2005 for instigating. Murphy’s assertion is an outright lie:

    http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/news/story?id=2246325

  2. Gary bettman just cares about money, nobody likes him, he cant go on ice without one single boo. Someone is going to be paralized or even killed, the game has evolved in so many ways. Just my opinion, Zdeno Chara knew where he was on the ice, he is a pro nhl star, his actions alone may have ended someones carear and maybe has damaged their lifestyle. For the very fact that Chara injurded a player seriously, for that very fact alone the NHL should have taken action and srict measures to set an example that this kind of hockey needs to stop! I am a SENS fan and watching any player take a discusting hit like that make my stomach curl. Lets bring a team to Hamilton, get rid of Bettman, and let burke see how many leaf fans will leave toronto from there poor hockey sloppy on going; this is the year rant! Really Toronto? Waste of skins, way overated. Would rather wear a habs jersy anyday!

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