UPDATE (3:45 PM) : AFTER THE HEARING WITH THE NHL OFFICE, ZDENO CHARA WILL NOT FACE SUPPLEMENTARY DISCIPLINE, MUCH TO THE CHAGRIN OF MONTREAL FANS AND TO THE SURPRISE OF MANY . READ THE NHL’S FULL STATEMENT REGARDING THE ISSUE HERE
By now, most hockey fans have seen the “highlight” of Zdeno Chara’s hit on Max Pacioretty, which resulted in the Montreal player laying unconscious on the ice for several minutes before being taken to hospital.
I have heard many opinions on the hit and have heard extremes from both sides. Montreal fans are screaming for Chara to be suspended for the rest of the season (if not kicked out of the league), while Boston fans are calling it a clean hit with unfortunate circumstances. These are opinions are primarily from people who have a rooting interest in the hit and the result.
After seeing the hit several times, I would have to call it somewhere in the middle. The hit was a bit late, and an interference penalty was given. What makes matters worse is the history between these two teams and those two players in particluar, stemming from their last two meetings.
I hope Pacioretty is ok, but you also have to realize that when you run around picking your spots, being an agitator, you have a target on your back. You have to be accountable for your actions, and Pacioretty has a history of running around and being a “weasel” at certain times, most notably against the Bruins. He is not the first person to be hit into the turnbuckle, and he won’t be the last. There is really no way to avoid it, and those hits are traditionally painful, but also bring the fans to their feet in most cases. Nobody deserves to be injured like that, but once you get that target or label on you, you have to be aware of where you are on the ice as well, and who is on the ice with you.
I don’t consider Chara a dirty player, but I also have no doubt that if it had been anyone but Pacioretty, he would not have put hm into the boards with such vigor. However I don’t for a second believe he meant to nearly decapitate the player. I don’t feel anything more than a one or two game suspension would be warranted. Chara does have a conference call scheduled with the League office, so there will most likely be some supplementary discipline. Remember, you are viewing the play after the fact in slow motion. At game speed, it didn’t appear as malicious as it did in slow motion. It was a simple rubout play gone very wrong.
No one but Chara will ever really know if there was intent or not. If Matt Cooke or Sean Avery or Maxim Lapierre had done it, the book would be thrown at them. However, Chara has no discipline history, and the biggest factor working against him is his size and strength.