CRIMINAL?? I DON’T THINK SO

The Zdeno Chara hit has sent the country, okay, mainly a few politicians, an airline, an entire province and now the Police, into a frenzy. It was seven years ago this past Tuesday that Todd Bertuzzi jumped Steve Moore and the reaction wasn’t close to the emotional outcry that we are witnessing right now.

First it was the politicians trying to gain popularity. via the Toronto Sun:

"I simply don’t understand what the NHL is thinking here," Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff told reporters after the NHL made its decision. "It’s up to the National Hockey League to protect its players. It’s up to the National Hockey League to protect all the young kids playing the game. It’s up to the National Hockey League to act and I can tell you, there is strong feeling in the House of Commons that if they don’t act, then, you know, we should get involved. No politician wants to get involved in this, it’s not our business. But as a citizens, as a fan, I think it’s outrageous."

The Chara hit came up during daily Question Period in the House of Commons minutes before the NHL released its decision.

NDP MP Glenn Thibeault, who has been pushing new legislation to reduce concussions and other serious injuries in amateur sports, told the House the Chara hit was more evidence new rules are needed.

Minister of State for Sport Gary Lunn said the government had been consulting with national sporting organizations on the issue.

"It is something that we hope that the NHL also takes very seriously. This type of hitting is unacceptable," Lunn said. "We would do everything to ensure that NHL does not allow this kind of action to continue."

I’m sure all of us are happy that the Liberals, NDP and Conservatives are so concerned about the game. I’m not sure what new rule Thibeault would like put in, but based on their track record I’m sure they will follow up with a comprehensive study and actually try and do something to lessen concussions.

Or they might put as much work into reducing concussions as they have into making our criminal system more fair.

ENTER AIR CANADA

Then Air Canada sent a letter to Gary Bettman. Here is a portion of  it.

"We are contacting you (Wednesday) to voice our concern over (Tuesday night’s) incident involving Max Pacioretty and Zdeno Chara at the Bell Centre in Montreal," wrote Vandal. "This is following several other incidents involving career-threatening and life-threatening headshots in the NHL recently."

Vandal noted the controversial issue is becoming bad for Air Canada’s brand.

"From a corporate social responsibility standpoint, it is becoming increasingly difficult to associate our brand with sports events which could lead to serious and irresponsible accidents; action must be taken by the NHL before we are encountered with a fatality.

"Unless the NHL takes immediate action with serious suspension to the players in question to curtail these life-threatening injuries, Air Canada will withdraw its sponsorship of hockey."

Not only does Air Canada own the naming rights to Toronto’s Air Canada Centre, it’s believed they’re a major corporate sponsor behind all six Canadian teams. Air Canada’s head office is also located in Montreal.

Call me skeptical, but I wonder how much of this letter had to do with their head office being in Montreal, compared to the backlash of fans/flyers who choose West Jet because they aren’t a major NHL sponsor? I might be naive in thinking that this is another case of head office pandering to the rationale and bias-free Montrealers.

AND THEN

Finally the Montreal Police got involved (via TSN)

Law enforcement got involved following a request by Quebec’s director of criminal and penal prosecutions, Louis Dionne.

A spokeswoman for Dionne said that, after seeing television footage of the incident, he issued a recommendation to the provincial Public Security department that an investigation be opened.

The department then forwarded the file to police.

"The police investigation will be held. Like all police investigations, evidence will be gathered and an investigation report will be submitted (to the DCPP)," said spokeswoman Martine Berube.

"(The DCPP) will then evaluate to see whether there’s grounds for prosecution."

Asked what kind of punishment could be assessed in a case like Chara’s, she replied: "It’s too early to say. That would depend on what charges are laid. That’s a little difficult to predict at this point."

The move came amid a burst of outrage after the National Hockey League declined to suspend Chara.

Earlier Wednesday, Dionne’s own office downplayed talk of a criminal investigation but hardened its tone hours later when the league announced no sanctions would be taken.  

I wonder if the Police in Montreal would have investigated this hit if it was a Boston Bruin on the receiving end? I’m sure the police would have been inundated with calls from Montreal fans livid that an innocent Bruins player was so maliciously attacked on the ice.

To me this is clearly a case where passion and biased emotion has taken charge. Politicians, Air Canada and the Quebec police are pandering to the highly emotional Canadien fans. I will be very surprised if any of these three factions follow through on their threats. Sure there will be an investigation, but I don’t see any charges coming.

Air Canada has made their point with their Montreal flyers and I don’t see them pulling their sponsorship, while the politicians will jump on the next hot topic very quickly and we won’t hear from them until another borderline hockey hit, where a Canadian-based team has one of their players injured.

PARTING SHOT

Check out this Jack Johnson hit on Ryan Smyth. 

One of the biggest arguments/complaints surrounding the Chara hit is that he knew where the "turnbuckle" was and deliberately drove Max Parioretty’s head into it. Did Johnson do the same thing here? Outside of Don Cherry showing it on CBC was it ever talked about as much as the Chara hit?

I know Smyth had the puck, but many of the Chara haters suggested his hit was intentional, so was Johnson who was facing the "turnbuckle" just as guilty?

I love hockey, and I love how passionate Canadians are about the game, but in this case too many people have overreacted and have made it more personal than rationale.

That is disappointing. 

    • Jason Gregor

      Why I didn’t read their site? Links were attributed to where I read them. They aren’t the only site with opinions, and I’ve had Greg on my show many times. I credit him when it fits.

  • Hemmertime

    Ray Ferraro said it exactly how I think of it (god I love him as a color guy). It is ridiculous to think that Chara purposefully turn-buckled him, that would take immense skill, timing, and a murderous intent.

    • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

      Rob Brown said after the game last night that Chara knew EXACTLY where the turnbuckle was. These players play a game at lightning speed. They react to things happening on the ice with reflexes that most of us couldn’t even comprehend.

      How can someone pick a 100mph puck out of mid-air and tip it past a goalie, yet not know exactly where he is on the ice at a moment in time?

    • book¡e

      I totally disagree and wonder if Ferraro ever played the game (note:I know he did). Do Goalies intentionally stand in the way of the puck, do players ever deflect shots to score goals?

      How could it be that players are capable of slit second decisions, but then not be aware of something like pushing someone into a turnbuckle (something that happens relatively slowly compared to a lot of things on the ice). Of course, he could not line it up from 20 steps away (which is what Ferraro was talking about), but once there, he made the decision to give the guy a massive shove right into the turnbuckle (and it was a shove, not just a hit). So, while I don’t think it is premeditated in the sense that he planned it for a long time, I do think that he made a last minute decision to nail the guy – even if he regretted it moments later.

      With that said, I think the nature of the game has to be taken into account and that ‘last second’ decision making is tough and that players are asked to really ‘punish’ other players, but then are also asked to not hurt them seriously. Its a difficult game in that regard.

      I am sure he didn’t want to break the guy’s neck, but I am pretty sure he knew that he was going to really cream the guy and that the turnbuckle was there.

      • OilFan

        Agreed. These guys have amazing reflexes and its their job to know where they are on the ice.

        The NHL’s statement should have read:

        All NHL players are accountable to know where they are on the ice, and the potential consequences to thier fellow players when they hit, push or otherwise physically engage with another player. Regardless of intent, Mr. Chara should have known where he was on the ice and the potential consequences of running the player into the turnbuckle.

        The NHL cannot condone such actions and therefore suspends Mr. Chara for 15 games. Furthermore, the NHL wishes to reinforce to all players that risking the health and safety of other players through such actions will lead to suspensions of equal or greater length for all future transgressions.

        Anything less is grossly irresponsible and a sign of a league totally out of touch with society and its fanbase.

      • Hemmertime

        99% of the time a push from there ends up with the player hitting the glass or slowing up. It was an away game, Chara surely pays attention to where 30 turnbuckles are and lengths of benches.

        • book¡e

          He was behind the player with the turnbuckle right in front of him. The turnbuckles are exactly where the are in every other rink – at the end of the benches. Your comment might be valid if they were playing blindfolded, but they were not.

          Were you joking?

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    So if Chara is found criminally reponsible what the heck does that mean in terms of hockey in Montreal? I mean if the league deems this fair play and this is criminally against the law in Montreal, then doesn’t that force Montreal to pull their team?

  • james_dean

    chara is not a dirty player. 13 years in the leauge and this is the first infraction. the polititians should stay out of it. period. if it would have been an oiler player layed out it would be a different reaction. if you win quebecs vote you get into power ignatieff knows this.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    As for the Smyth hit and this one, I guess the difference is this one was deemed interference and that one wasn’t. Either way 5 and a game is enough penalty for me.

  • Derzie

    Gregor, you sir are in a juvenile minority. This ain’t MMA son. This isn’t just about Chara, it’s about Crosby, Richards, Savard, Moore and every other thing that taints hockey for fans. Keep the :being entertained by human suffering” to your MMA where it belongs.

    • Jason Gregor

      What an insightful response. I don’t recall mentioning MMA anywhere in the story, and please show me the last guy in MMA who got blindsided and concussed…OH THAT’s right, it doesn’t happen like it does in hockey, but great argument.

      I also don’t recall mentioning where I said I enjoyed the Chara hit, but you keep making up things in that brilliant mind of yours. Have a great day.

    • OilFan

      I agree.
      A hit should be administered with just enough force to separate a player from the puck. No more, no less.

      Just because a player CAN use the full force of his size, speed and demeanor to hit someone, doesn’t give him carte blanche to do the same. Part of being a pro athlete is being in total control of your body during competition.

      Also, where is the NHLs culpability in the Chara hit? I’ve heard people blame Chara. I’ve heard people blame Pacioretty. Does someone have to be killed hitting one of these turnbuckles, before the NHL takes some responsibility for this disaster-in-waiting?

      • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

        How do you know how much force to use? Granted BOS and MON play quite often and Chara might’ve known, but say it’s WSH and EDM does Jacques know how much it takes to get Ovechkin off the puck? Probably not.

        • jaicee

          Wrong. I don’t think you understood my comments.
          Where did I say players should lay off the hits?

          Part of being a Pro in any league is knowing 100% when to use the full force of your strength. Does it make sense to fire a slapshot from 10 feet in front of the net, because it’s your hardest shot? Does a pitcher picking up a ground ball rifle a 110mph fastball to first base to get the runner out? Do you pull out a driver when you are 4 feet from the pin? Just because you can?

          Are you suggesting that every hit has to be administered with the full force that a player is capable of? That a player who got rid of the puck two steamboats ago needs to be destroyed, because that’s “going 100%”

          That is different from my feeling that a hit should be given appropriately. If the only way to separate a strong player like Ovechkin from the puck is to put him through the boards, I’m good with that.

          • Let’s use your sports analogy against you. When a Running Back is blasting through the line should a linebacker just grab his jersey and hope it takes him down? No, you drop your shoulder, make contact at full force, wrap him up and drive him to the ground.

            Will players take slapshots being 10 feet out from the net? Yep, we’ve seen them do it on breakaways and in shootouts.

            Will a 2nd baseman throw the ball as quick, hard and accurate as possible to first after a tag up to make a double play? Sure do.

            With the new NHL and players not being able to interfere with obstruction hooking etc. I fully expect them to hit as hard as they can. Long ago kids were taught to hit just to separate the man from the puck, nowadays if you’re playing Major Junior and you let up on players you may never make it to the next level.

            Going 100% means putting your all into it. Guys may lay off if they see the numbers, or now because of the blindside rule they may lay off if the guys head is down. There is no way they are going to lay off on the force of contact along the wall. Like it or not, that’s the way it is. Look up Hal Gill vs Jon Sim, look up Jack Johnson vs Ryan Smyth. All of these hits are the same and are a part of hockey. Should any of them let up on the contact? No, because how would it look if they took it easier on the player and got beat wide and a goal was scored. Could you see Gill going back to the bench and saying, sorry I got beat wide and we might lose because they scored, but I didn’t want to hurt the guy. Give your head a shake.

            If MP wasn’t a Canadien or severely injured there wouldn’t be nearly as much debate over that play.

          • gabbana007

            But where does the responsibility come into play here?

            Was it necessary to shove his arm into Pacioretty’s head, thus forcing him into the stantion?

            No way can anyone say that Chara is not the culprit. By pushing Pacioretty into the stantion, he disregarded the safety of the player. He could have rubbed him out or hooked him or held him instead. No, he decided to disregard the puck, look up at Pacioretty and annihilate him into the stantion.

            Pathetic!

          • How do you know that it wasn’t Chara’s intention of holding him up with his arm? Sure it looks like he’s “guiding his head” but as a defenseman he may have just been following through with his rub out.

            How many times in Big Z’s career has he gone out of his way to blatantly cheap shot someone? Zero.

            You’re right, he didn’t go for the puck after MP chipped it by him because HE WOULD HAVE BEEN BEAT if he did. Instead he played the man so that MP wouldn’t have a breakaway. Chara’s responsibility is to his team and helping them win games. If Smid was in the same position and rubbed his guy out but instead only got 2 minutes for interference but benched the guy would you still complain? Didn’t think so.

            Again, the injury is terrible but sh%t happens.

          • gabbana007

            So, his responsibility is to his team? So, because of this, one can go to any length to be a responsible team member? Even to the extent of pushing an opponent`s head into the stantion, not caring about the safety of the opponent?

            Shit happens, but who`s responsible for it in the ned? Chara in this case.

            A player has to know that his careless and reckless actions can lead an opponent to injury. Chara knew what he was doing. At to say he didn`t know Pacioretty is on the ice because it was a line change is totally idiotic. The play started from a face off in the Montreal end.

            Chara is a sneaky player. He`s not an idiot to blantantly do something stupid. But, what he did to MP was just enough.

          • OilFan

            The debate people are having shouldn’t be on this hit agreed. It should be on the body of work of a league with grey guidelines. To me the reaction to the Chara hit is symptom of a problem deep rooted with NHL management. The lack of consistency, the convluted nature in which decisions are based and the inability to establish concrete rules and responsibilities are my concerns. Note that the NHLPA is as much to fault as the NHL itself.

            Intent (in this context)is an ambiquous word which has no clear definition. Scrap intent have black and white rulings and be firm, then and only then will the sport be safer for players and better for families to attend.

            By the way does the CHL not a clear and concise policy on headshot particularly? Pretty sure they do and thats still good 100% hockey.

    • Then I am in that minority too. This is about Chara and Pacioretty. Where was Ignatief when Savard was crunched? Or Richards? or Crosby even? ….Oh that’s right, they’re not Habs players are they? Did anyone say charge Steckel he hurt Crosby? Nope. (Not that I heard anyway)
      This is crazy, that was a very violent hit. It was not a dirty play though. It sucks he was hurt bad, but a hit like that is clean. 10 feet further up the ice and everyone is praising Chara for finishing his check so well.

      • jaicee

        Again, they didn’t almost die.

        When a player is almost killed from a viscous hit, and the league sends a message loud and clear that there was nothing wrong with that hit… there is a problem.

        The distinguihing fact between your examples and this one… they didn’t almost die!

        • WHOA now, settle down. Pacioretty didn’t “almost die”. Yes he fractured a vertebrae and yes he got a concussion but to say he almost died is stretching this nonsense way too far.

          He COULD have died, yes. Savard also COULD have died if the brain trauma was the slightest bit more severe. He could have had a brain hemorrhage, or internal bleeding or suffered brain damage. Like DC said, no one jumped up and down and caused a stink that Matt Cooke should be put on death row.

          Richard Zednik/Clint Malarchuck COULD have died when a their throats were cut by skates. Again, no one came rushing out of the woodwork to say they need to ban skates. And Clint Malarchuck did almost die, he was literally seconds away from bleeding out. That’s the closest anyone has come to dying on the ice since probably Ace Bailey.

          Incredibly violent outcome for Pacioretty, but he didn’t “almost die”.

          • How about Foster? He almost died. I love the way icing is right now but that’s an easy one that makes it safer. Especially with the hybrid rule

            In regards to Chara, that is in no way his fault just bad luck for Max. I haven’t seen suggestions that make any sense to avoid that. Maybe they could put turnbuckles on those corners and before MacIntyre comes out, Hacksaw Jim Duggan could come out and take the turnbuckles off to the crowds excitement. Then we could have fake fighting in place of real fighting…….celebrities could guest star in fights in the game and say have Justin Beiber take on Boogard. After JB rips the goalie pad off Lunqvist, he belts Boogard with it and then chucks him through the net. Jumps off the scoreboard for a flying elbow and then runs off the ice while chugging beers and throwing them at people ***

            ***ref: 1990s WWF …oops WWE