Let me just say right off the top, I would not have suspended Zdeno Chara if it was my call. Let me also say that watching the close up, slow motion video of Chara’s hit on Montreal’s Max Pacioretty made me cringe and made me feel dirty for saying I would not suspend him. I’ll also add that I was susprised the NHL didn’t suspend Chara for 1 or 2 games because of the image a non suspension would present to sports fans across the country. Now, let me explain all of this.
If I’m going to suspend Chara, I need to know intent. I need to know that he knew exactly what he was doing, that he took Pacioretty out knowing full well the stanchion was there and there was no place Pacioretty could go except right into the partition. I think Chara was well aware of what was coming in terms of that partition but I can’t prove it with 100 percent certainty. Chara did not break rule 48 because he did not intentionally target the head of the opposing player.
As to the league’s decision, a number of callers to our morning show this week brought up a good point. Even if there wasn’t intent, Chara must still be held accountable for his actions. While taking an interference penalty, one deemed serious enough to be for 5 minutes and result in a game misconduct for the behemoth of a defenseman, Chara’s play led to Pacioretty’s serious injury and that alone should be worthy of a suspension. Like I said, it’s a good point and even more so at a time when the league says it is trying to protect players from head injuries as much as possible without taking hitting out of the game. That is why I’m surprised they didn’t throw a short suspension at Chara.
That, and the video. I’ve watched it back 4 or 5 times and as I said earlier, I cringe when I see Pacioretty’s head slam into the stanchion. Then you see him laying face down on the ice. You see the look on the faces of the fans who are wondering if Pacioretty is alive or not and then there’s the stretcher and the neck brace. It does make you think that someday there will be a fatality on the ice. Which is why I was expecting the league to do something so they can avoid all of the “this is why I don’t watch your game” comments.
It’s odd. Usually I think the NHL misses the boat when it comes to suspending guys for on ice actions, letting some hits go with no disciplinary action. When they do suspend someone, I usually think they were too lenient with the Islanders Trevor Gillies most recent suspension being the latest example but I would not have suspended Chara this time around. That play and the David Steckel hit on Sidney Crosby at the Winter Classic, among others, should make for a great debate when the Board of Governors convenes next week, one year after they put a rule on the books, cracking down on hits to the head.