More Pacioretty Fallout – Part 1


The aftermath and debate of the Max Pacioretty injury doesn’t seem to be losing momentum, so I will take this opportunity to follow up on it as well.  The first part of this post will address the hit itself and the lack of suspension, while the second part will address the fallout from off the ice that has resulted from it.

Three days later, I still can’t be convinced that it was a dirty play.  The still photo that has been cirulating around the internet showing Zdeno Chara‘s glove at Pacioretty’s head level doesn’t prove that Chara shoved his head into the stanchion.  If you watch the video closely (especially the NESN video taken from above and behind the players’ benches) , you will realize that the photo is taken AFTER the Montreal forward’s head has already made contact with the stanchion.  At the point of impact, Charas hand is at Pacioretty’s chest level. It was a shove, and an interference penalty by a player who didn’t want an opponent to get past him for a breakaway.

Hits like this are a common occurrence in the NHL.  In fact, they are applauded and celebrated in most cases.  If you are to punish this act the way many people (at least the very vocal minority) wish, the NHL would have to outlaw any body contact and eliminate fighting completely. Then you would be watching the All-Star game every night without all the players having All-Star talent.

The arguements used by those calling for a lengthy suspension include A)  that Chara should have known where he was on the ice; B) that Chara appeared to guide Pacioretty’s head into the stanchion; and C) that Chara most likely was aware it was Pacioretty, and given the recent history between the two players he was more exuberant than ususal in the rubout.

The things that the league seems to look for include direct contact with the head, a blind side “predatory” hit against a defenseless player and direct and deliberately going out of their way to injure an opponent (ie sticking out a knee to trip a player).   The Chara hit doesn’t appear to me to satisfy ANY of the league’s requirements for a suspension.  He was engaged with Pacioretty prior to the puck leaving the area, and he finished his check, albeit a bit late.

I understand why Montreal Canadiens fans are upset and want their pound of justice.  One of their own was severely injured  during the game.   I was mad at Eric Lindros for his hit on Andreas Dackell, but I didn’t feel he should be suspended for the play as it wasn’t illegal and Dackell tried to duck out of the way which made it worse for the Senator winger.

Even if, for arguements’ sake, I give you the point that Chara did guide him (and his head) into the turnbuckle intentionally (even though evidence suggests otherwise to me).  It wouldn’t be the first time a player has gone into a stanchion head first.  It happens all the time.  The resulting scene and injury was indeed tragic and horrific and all the other adjectives that have been used over the past few days.

But remember why we all love the sport.  It is a incredibly fast moving game, played by fiercely competitve players who are bigger and stronger than most people.  Big hits happen and sometimes people get hurt.  Not all hits that result in injury are suspendable offences.  Players are aware of the risks when they step on the ice, that is one of the reasons they get paid so much to play a game.  Even though the result of the play was devastating, it is not comparable to predatory plays like Bertuzzi or McSorley, or even Dale Hunter on Pierre Turgeon in 1993.

Longtime Ottawa fans might remember the devastating injury Magnus Arvedson suffered when he was checked into the open door of the Flyers bench in January 2000.  The injury caused him to lose some of his small intestine.  It was accidental and a freak injury, but it didn’t result in the removal of the bench doors or a ban on body contact near the benches.  The players assume the risk and understand that the bench doors (like the stanchions) are a part of the playing area and are a potential hazard.

So I support the league’s decision to forego any supplemental discipline for Zdeno Chara.

In the interest of not making this post too long, I will talk about the outside influences of the fallout in Part 2, coming up soon!