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. 

  • bretzky

    Great article Gregor, I agree completely this whole issue has become very disappointing. It’s business’ and politicians sucking up to emotional Montreal fans. I agree with the NHL’s decision not to suspend Chara. And I hope Pac is alright

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    You know on the busiest hockey forum on the internet only 27% believe Chara deserved 5+ games. The outcry on this situation is just ridiculous.

  • OilFan

    Gregor;

    For once I am going to disagree with you. I usually am on the same page as you, and I was until I seen the hit from a different angle. The angle that showed me that this hit was viscious was the one where they show Pats coming towards Chara, up high and on Chara’s back end.

    What I dont like about this hit, is this. Chara was guiding him towards the boards, fine and clean. He could have finished him off by guiding him like he was doing and crushing him into the Canadiens bench. You cant argue that he wouldnt have done that either because he still would have got a penalty for interference if he did that instead of smashing him into the turnbuckle. The only difference is that its not a 5 min major and Pats wouldnt be out for the season. The problem I have with Chara’s hit, is that he was guiding him out of the play, and at that last second decided to push him into that turnbuckle. You clearly see that from the other camera angle. If he guided him all the way thru to the turnbuckle and this happened (like the smyth incident above) then I think that is a hockey play and an unfortunate incident. However that last minute push, of a 6’9 255 lb defenceman onto a forward going full speed who is already being angled out is where I have a problem with that hit.

    I dont agree with Air Canada and its threats as well as the politicians and police getting involved. But I think Chara should have gotten at least a 2 or 3 games.

    • Jason Gregor

      I wouldn’t have been offended if they gave Chara two or three games, but I don’t think a two or three game suspension would ultimately make a difference.

      It would have quieted many people probably, but two games isn’t enough to get player’s attention, and it didn’t warrant a 10 or 15 game suspension.

      My point is how AC, the police and politicians jump on board just to get attention, but they have no intentions of trying to better the situation. Those actions are more offensive than Chara’s because they are willingly trying to exploit the situation for their own good.

  • Golden Seals

    This type of injury is to be expected. Players today are big, fast and can create collisions that are downright scary.

    30 years ago, players I would guess weighed on average 25-30 pounds less than today. Factor in less speed and softer equipment and the chance of this type of injury was very rare.

    Players today also have no fear. Why challenge Chara along the wall. This is a giant of a man who size alone should deter such attempts.

    For me, the NHL and NFL both have the same problem. Bigger, faster players and head injuries as a result. Maybe it`s time to look at the size of the playing surface rather than a host of new rules.

  • Greg MC

    There is a history between Chara and Pacoiretty. Looking at the video I cannot say it was on purpose to cause injury, but my gut feeling is that Chara meant to inflict pain.

  • NateBaldwin

    While I agree with the tone of the article (as I’m interpreting it)

    Politics, corporations, law enforcement etc. need to stay out of what is a hockey matter, I absolutely disagree that what Chara did was within the parameters of a penalty without suspension

    Any hockey player knows the dangerous areas (chasing icing calls, cutting laterally at the blue line, in NHL rinks “turnbuckles”)

    Chara knew what he was doing, as illustrated by his fist in the still picture guiding Pacioretty’s head into the buckle. Hockey play or not, Chara’s intent was to hit him hard, and he knew exactly where the were on the ice.

    Chara deserves a suspension, albeit a short one, but what he did can’t be shrugged off as accidental, it wasn’t accidental at all.

  • Starving Student

    The only thing illegal about Chara’s hit was that it may have been interference. The hit itself was not overly physical, it was a defensemen rubbing out a forward. Routine play in hockey. It was the “turnbuckle” (don’t turnbuckles require some sort of rope???) that did the damage. So why does he need to be suspended?

    I too thought of the Ryan Smyth incident when I said the Chara hit. This isn’t something new. It’s just like Zarf had wrote, why not focus on the real cause and re-engineer a new “turnbuckle” where safety has been vastly improved.

    What happens when a player gets checked into an open door (which has happened)? Will we be calling for the removal of hits because doors open? Come on people. Be better.

  • gabbana007

    What no-one hear realizes is that the score at the time of the hit was 4-0 Montreal with less than 15 seconds on the clock (perfect timing for some retribution). The video being circulated over many media outlets is clear: The puck was long gone. Chara looked up, saw Pacioretty and with his arms, pushed him deliberately into the turnbuckle. A careless, reckless and dangerous play that has no place in hockey.

    What no-one else failed to mention was that the last home game Montreal beat Boston, Pacioretty scored than skated towards Chara and they engaged in pushing and shoving. A reporter, working for Boston, was interviewed after the game and he said that Pacioretty should watch himself or else (a clear threat if you ask me).

    Finally, the NHL is run by clowns. Maybe more companies need to take a stand and withdraw money from the NHL.

    • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

      The puck was 1.5 seconds gone. And who really cares what a reporter said. Them saying something doesn’t make it a threat.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    The way I see it…if I get in a car accident and it’s my fault, then I pay the price. It doesn’t matter what my intent is. True, if I intentionally ram the person, then I get a harsher punishment. But even if I don’t intentionally do it, and somebody is seriously injured or killed due to my actions, then I still pay a price, possibly even jail time.

    You may say that car accidents don’t equate with hockey hits. But to me, there is something fundamentally wrong with a sport if an incident like this can occur and NOTHING happens. There are no consequences whatever. People say this was just a “hockey play”? Well, then maybe there is something wrong with hockey.

    For the record, I’m not a Montreal fan. But I am curious as to what the response on this board would be if this had happened to one of our young stars.

    • OilFan

      Your analogy would make sense if you could define what the driving definition of a clean open ice hit is.

      You can’t compare a contact sport to an incident happening while driving. In hockey you can go for a hit and make a mistake. You shouldn’t be going for hits while driving (though if you are from Alberta that might be different).

  • NateBaldwin

    I’m not a Habs fan and I’m thrilled to hear that a sponsor is (even if it’s only posturing) considering withdrawing because of the way that the NHL handles suspensions. Their approach is inconsistent and laughable at best, and this incident with Chara exemplifies the NHL’s unwillingness to punish for the sake of deterring.

    No one but Chara will ever hope to know what was going through his head. I’m willing to believe that given his record and his character he probably had no intent to injure Pacioretty. But the notion that any player, let alone a 13 year veteran, doesn’t know where the stanchion is, is absurd.

    What concerns me most is that the lack of a suspension leaves the door open for this kind of hit to happen again. Frankly this incident has brought to light two other instances (Ennis, Smyth) that as a casual hockey fan I wasn’t even aware of, although they further my point. By not making any attempt to deter this type of play (past of present) or modify the arenas to make this type of play impossible, the NHL is really pushing their luck.

    At the risk of sounding dramatic, sooner or later an NHL player is going to die on the ice. It may be from a play like this, or it may be from something less preventable. Hockey is played on the hardest surface of all, at a faster pace than most others, and every player has two blades strapped to their feet. It is truly and accident waiting to happen, but some of these accidents can be prevented. While it is not solely the responsibility of the NHL to address the preventable ones, inaction on their part sends the message that the game is more important than those who play it. If I were a sponsor I’d take issue with that too.

  • O.C.

    I have a different take.

    He could have eased up. There is no way I am buying that Chara didn’t know where he was blah blah blah.

    It was one of those “how fortunate a location for the hit… this will be even better!” as he pasted the player – and only after did he realize it was a bad idea.

    Here’s the difference. The NHL is in a pickle. If they say it’s intentional, they open the player and the league and their insurers up to litigation.

    If they say it’s a fault of design… same thing.

    So – it just becomes “one of those things that happens in the game” with no real blame vetted out.

  • Woogie

    If Chara were a Canadiens player and Pacioretty was a Bruin, this would receive exactly 10 seconds of coverage. This whole thing has been blown way out of proportion by people who should not be getting involved.

    The injury is unfortunate, but the play itself wasn’t dirty. It was just a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It wasn’t an infraction worthy of a suspension, just really bad luck. Nothing more.

  • everton fc

    Is it me, or did fewer guys get hurt like this back in the 70’s and 80’s? Bossy, Gretzky… Goulet… Savard… Others… I don’t remember all these career-ending concussions and extremely dirty hits. Semenko kneeing the odd guy during a fight, stuff like that… But you had guys on the ice that would police that sort fo stuff, and it wasn’t always the “goon”, if you know what I mean? By losing the culture of policing itself (Bertuzzi’s actions against Moore was not “policing”), did the league open itself up to head-shots and situations like these by simply changing the rules to change the culture?

    I think the concept of re-engineering that area of the boards is a good one. But it doesn’t erase the blatant elbows and head shots we see nowadays.

    • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

      The knowledge on concussions wasn’t what it was back then, so concussions weren’t always known when they happened. The other thing is every game is on TV nowadays. Add twitter and the internet and people are getting a hold of these incidents a lot sooner than they once did.

      20 years ago if someone got hit like this one. Where would people see it? Other than the people at the game there is a good chance no one else really would see the footage, unless the game happened to be on TV. You also didn’t have the public outcry like years ago, because if you wanted to complain you couldn’t exactly turn a switch on and type your thoughts within seconds.

  • jaicee

    The NHL has demonstrated that they are unable to police themselves. If they are unable to police themselves it is the responsible of others to do the policing.

    Arbitrary justice creates a vacuum that is filled from below by retribution (see Gillies) and by above through tyranny (see Government). If the NHL had done the right thing and suspended Chara this conversation wouldn’t be happening.

    It is an upside down world when Gillies gets suspended for 10 games for nothing but Chara gets nothing for ending someone’s career.

    The real villains however are Mike Murphy and Colin Campbell. This is their fault and they should be held accountable.

  • forestscooter

    I don’t agree with what is happening and feel sorry for mostly max and his family but also now chara. I think chara is becoming a victim of the leagues slight incompetence. Why not wait to hear maxs statement before making a ruling ? Why not wait a couple days and listen to input from all sources including the fans and media ? Why not use that time to issue a formal statement with the intent of assessing safety engineering of rinks around the league ? In my mind the quick decision created some of this tension. Nowadays even in the most basic industry like a warehouse results in a 48 hour investigation and recommendations to help prevent the incident going forward.

  • OilFan

    The Hab fan’s are embarrassing !!! I can hardly watch a montreal hockey game since the fan’s boo the ref’s on every play. The Canadians are a diving team and play with big mouths i.e PK . I do hope the kid gets better and is able to play hockey again. Didn’t Max Pacioretty hit Eaton with INTENT. Montreal seems to forgot that one

    • gabbana007

      Point taken however, the unfortunate reality is in the facts: if Montreal fans, as you say, boo the ref’s on every play, than why are the Canadians the second most penalized team in the league? Are the refs purposefully calling penalties so than the fans can boo some more?

      Watch any game and the refs are selective with the calls they make. See Chicago v Vancouver or Vancouver v LA in last year’s playoffs. So many bogus calls against Vancouver and when Vigneault or Gillis complained to the league, the media jumped on them and said they were whiners.

      Regarding P.K. he can take care of himself.

      • OilFan

        P.K can take care of himself ? Oh yeah like in his fight with Lupul when it was obvious Joffery was taking off his helmet and P.K jumped him and after the fight when the ref split the fight up P.K didn’t have the marbles to look Lupul in the eyes. Had this hit happend to a Boston player by say Hal Gill nothing would be said by Montreal poice and Air Canada. Booing the ref and USA anthem is classy

  • CupBoundCanucks

    This was a rare occurrence in the NHL, but the league needs better rules in place for instances where players are driven into turnbuckles or open gates intentionally. Those plays are just as dirty as headshots and don’t tell me players don’t know where the glass/benches are. How many years does a pro player spend in a hockey rink?? It is absurd to think they don’t know the dangerous areas of the boards.

  • Rogue

    If you look in the Sun today, the pic clearly shows that Pac is ahead of Chara AND Charas left arm is up and pushing Pacs head.

    It is clearly a head shot and with the rules in the NHL today, he should of been suspended. If Chara had rubbed him into the boards Pacs may still of hit his head. But maybe not.

    I think Chara knew what he was doing. If you watch the replay he rubbed him with his body and THEN elbowed him in the head. It did not all happen at the same time.

  • jaicee

    Back in the WHA days I went to game Oilers vs Houston. My grandpa actually flew in from Vancouver so he could come and see Gordie Howe play.
    Well back then the Oil had some checker. I think his name was Bill Lang. Long straight hair. Tall. Lanky. No helmut.

    He was skating along side Gordie, yakking at him and as they passed the Oiler’s bench, Gordie leaned his elbow on Bill’s head. WHAMO – into the stanchion. Bill did a 360 or 540 before he hit the ice.
    He didn’t appear to be any worse for wear. It was more funny than scary.

    Anyway, that was the first time I seen that happen. Howe didn’t get a penalty but I’m sure he (and Chara) are well aware of where these stanchions are.
    This Chara hit was more scary than funny.

    These two incidents are very indicative of how the game has evolved over the past 30 years.

    I really thing there should be rule covering these types of plays, whether intentional or not – and a suspension of some sort. Particularly when a player is seriously hurt. There needs to be a sliver of respect for other players in the game.

  • Bryzarro World

    To you people that are using the excuse that the game is played “lightning” fast so he didn’t know what he was doing…. please stop making me laugh.

    Lets start off with the positioning. You telling me that he has no clue where he is on the ice? He has never been to a game before and doesn’t know where the benches are? Doesn’t know that there is glass seperating the benches? He isn’t aware of where he is on the ice? If you believe that you are dumber that what you are making him out to be. Playing 13 years I am sure he knows or he has a severe mental problem.

    Now you are gonna listen to Gregor’s “mind reader crap”.. Please. Then any video evidence in any trial or case should be thrown out cause nobody knows at anytime, anywhere what someone else would be thinking. He knew where he was.. didn’t finish a check but pushed him into the turn buckle and veered off. The puck was long gone and wasn’t trying to seperate anything from anyone. Maybe he didn’t know who the exact player was but that doesn’t matter. Doesn’t matter who it was.. it was a cheap ass play deserving of a suspension.

    The fastest computer known to man is the human brain. It can handle and compute more that you or I can even fathom. So Chara is mildly retarded now? Were his senses over stimulated? LOL.. he was just skating… that’s all. Was he flying a F-35? Was he involved in a docking to the space station? Those are tasks that take all your senses and concentration. Are hockey players that stupid? They can’t skate and be aware of their surroundings at the same time?

    Chara might not have known it was him but he knew full well what he was doing.

  • OilFan

    Don’t forget the seamless glass so all of the Americans who don’t really like hockey can see better.

    There is no flex in it, and a large percentage of head injuries I am sure are the result. The turnbuckle especially. The boards used to sway somewhat after big contact, that little bit of give really lessons the force of impact.

    Players used to play with concussions, but the thing is a lot of guys suffering them these days CAN’T play even if they wanted to – the symptoms are too severe. I think they are often worse injuries because of the new glass, gladiator style “pads”, speed, size, conditioning, everything. Especially respect.

    I hope that the league becomes forced to make legitimate efforts to properly protect players, through fan and corporate sentiment.

    Especially since I think the Oilers brass have bet on it based on who they have drafted over the last years – we need the help on the brutality/injury front.