Pacioretty-Chara: The Fallout, the Reactions
I was going to leave it alone. I was going to try and move on, and try to focus on tonight's game as the Habs finally get a chance to face their former goaltender, Jaroslav Halak, in St. Louis (you can read the preview for the game, even if that, too, ended up being more of a Pacioretty post, in Jason Pietroniro's blog).
But this issue can simply not be ignored.
The Montreal Canadiens, the Boston Bruins, and their fans have dominated anything hockey-related over the last two days. Twitter feeds have been flooded, radio shows have been dedicated to the issue and the incident even made national newscasts. Along the way, Habs fans, myself included, have been called a lot of things, the most common word coming up being "biased". Overreactive. Blinded by homerism. And I truly think all of that is unfair. Does the Max Pacioretty - Zdeno Chara incident hit close to home? Of course it does. Pacioretty is one of our own, a player that wears the Red, White, and Blue, and currently one of the team's best and hottest players.
In 37 games with the Canadiens, Pacioretty has an incredible 14 goals and 24 points. He's thrown 67 hits, 112 shots, he's defensively responsible and he's had chemistry with no matter who he's played it. And it's not like none of us saw this coming. Pacioretty is a special player. Before the season started, I had him on my first line in the 12-man roster challenge. I wrote about him in December, claiming he helped complete this team. And he's often showed up in many pre- and post-games, positively, of course.
The guy took a shot to the ribs and had to be taken out of HSBC Arena in Buffalo on a stretcher last month, and even though many thought he had shattered bones and collapsed lung, he fought through it and didn't miss a game. He's a warrior, he's fearless, and he's a great hockey player who had the potential to be something special for this team and in this league.
Instead, because of a fucking Neanderthal who was upset because Pacioretty gave him a light tap in the back after a game two months ago, all of that could be over. Don't believe the spinsters. Pacioretty's career is still in jeopardy, thanks to a severe concussion. Just like Marc Savard's career is, Bruins fans. Just like Patrice Bergeron's was. And just like Sidney Crosby's could very well be in jeopardy right now.
Because a player, obsessed with revenge over literally nothing, had to send a message. Because the NHL has no balls, and no interest in doing their job in disciplining the players and ensuring that the players don't have to police themselves.
Again, I need to stress that I don't believe Zdeno Chara wanted to break Pacioretty's neck or kill him. Even I don't think Chara is that bad of a person. But it boggles the mind to see people trying to make any excuse they can for this beast, with a noted mean-streak and a history with the particular player who's career - and life - he endangered. But no, Chara was just making a hockey play? He didn't want to hurt Pacioretty? He didn't have revenge in mind when he decided to rub him along the boards in front of the benches, a place in the rink that EVERY hockey player, and people non-hockey players know is the most dangerous place in the rink?
PLEASE. Chara was trying to take Pacioretty out of the game and send a message to him and the rest of the Montreal Canadiens, that the Bruins weren't to be physically "messed with".
But Mike Murphy, who couldn't cut it as a coach with the Kings, and couldn't cut it as a coach with the Leafs, and his boss Colin Cambell, who "recused" himself from the ruling (sure... more like recused himself from announcing the ruling), and who's probably more preoccupied with the fact that the Bruins losing Zdeno Chara might affect his son's career, decided that there was no evidence to suggest malice, and decided to let Chara go off scott-free with no fines, so suspensions, no consequences to his actions.
I'm not going to sit here and reiterate all the CLEAR evidence against the Bruins and Chara yet again, at this point it may be pointless to start getting redundant, but it's REALLY sad to see the NHL let another opportunity to send a message about headshots, and about vigilantism in the NHL slip by them simply because they're too blind to look at all the evidence in front of them. What Chara did was NASTY. What the Bruins are doing is NASTY. And if it's escalated for three games in a row now, what the hell does the NHL expect to happen when these two teams face off again in two weeks? Knowing that the Bruins will use this as an excuse to keep going after a smaller team, or possibly that some thick-headed Canadien will finally have had enough and decide to take matters into his own hands?
I've said it way too many times lately. It's going to keep escalating, and it's inevitably going to reach the point where an NHL player will DIE on the ice. I'm very thankful it was no Max Pacioretty, and I pray that he has a speedy recovery, but it very well could have been. And call me a homer all you want, but you'll have no trouble finding comments and even blogs or forum topics from me on this very site calling for the heads of players from other teams for shit like this, whether be Matt Cooke, Trevor Gillies, or anyone else. Yes, it hits close to home because the guy is a Hab, and one of the better ones at that and moreover one of the Habs best young players heading into the future. But moreover it really just makes me sick to my stomach about the state of headshots and malice in the NHL, and that the NHL will allow things like this to go on with no consequences. Rule 48 my ass.
While the NHL seems to be willing to ignore Zdeno Chara's offense, there are a lot of people that aren't. Here is a roundup of the various consequences that have already resulted from the hit, not even two days after the fact:
Max Pacioretty has reacted to the non-suspension by the league in an interview with TSN.
Pacioretty said that he was "upset and disgusted that the league didn't think enough of (the hit) to suspend him," and that he's "in hospital and I thought the league would do something, a little something. I'm not talking a big number, I don't know, one game, two games, three games...whatever, but something to show that it's not right.".
Pacioretty also said that he felt that Chara did what he did on purpose, even going as far to say that he meant to drive his head into the stanchion, and that all players know where it is on the ice. He did also say he was feeling better and that his symptoms haven't been all so bad.
Despite all this, it has been reported that Pacioretty was millimeters away from paralysis, so despite focusing on Chara and what he did, let's all be happy that Pacioretty will likely recover from his injuries.
In a surprising move, Air Canada has sent a letter to the NHL and all six Canadian clubs relaying their stance on the Pacioretty incident and all recent headshots.
"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.”
To say that it would be a big deal if Air Canada withdrew it's corporate sponsorship from the league would be an understatement. Not only do they own the naming rights to the Leafs arena, they are a major sponsor for all six Canadian teams and one of the biggest companies in Canada. A move by them to boycott the NHL would speak volumes and would likely be very influential on other sponsors. And I certainly commend them for standing up to the league and its bullies. It's amusing to see the NHL and Bill Daly try to deny it, but it's pretty obvious what's going on here.
Finally, in the most intriguing piece of news following this incident, it has been reported that Montreal police will be investigating the hit, with the potential to lay criminal charges on Zdeno Chara.
Louise Dionne, Quebec's director of criminal prosecutions, requested the investigation after reviewing the evidence from the hit. Canada's minister for sports, Gary Lunn, also reacted to the hit, condemning the hit as unacceptable and hoping the league will take a serious look at these issues.
The news also comes after 911 was flooded with people asking the police to investigate the matter, following an appeal on CKAC (a French Language sports station).
If the force did indeed decide to lay charges on Chara - which is nonetheless unlikely, but still - it wouldn't be the first time the government has gotten involved in a hockey hit. Over the last few years three players from the Quebec Major Junior League have been charged with assault.
I don't expect Air Canada to stop sponsoring the NHL. I don't expect Zdeno Chara to go to jail or even get charged. But I hope that everyone here gets the message all these ministers, prosecutors, players and companies are trying to send. This isn't about sending Chara to jail. it's about sending a message about the state of the NHL, it's about finally getting the league to open its eyes to the crap that they're letting slide it seems like every night.
Chara hurt Pacioretty, it's happened, it's done. It didn't need to happen but it did. Now, we need to focus on making sure it doesn't happen again, and if you don't send the message you need to send, it will happen again, and it will continue to get worse. Next time it might not be a fractured C4 vertebrae. It might be a dead body.
If the league had any balls, they would have suspended Chara for the year, and sent out a statement saying that it would only be more severe if it happened again. Take the money from their pockets, take them away from the game, because that's the only way they're going to learn. Ironically, it seems as if that's the only way the NHL is going to react too. If sponsors and advertisers start to pull out, if cities stop supporting the league and its teams, that's the only way they're going to get it. Players need to be protected AT ALL COSTS. It's time to stop nitpicking and trying to find every single reason to excuse that pitiful player and start looking for every excuse to stop this crap and make sure it doesn't happen again, accident or not.
Unless something really major happens, this will likely be the last time I will blog about this incident, because I'm tired of writing about it and having to defend myself against people who are never going to get it. But this is for Patches, and it's for justice. And I'm really happy that the NHL's indecision isn't going to mean that this incident and its consequences will go away.
Share your thoughts - whatever they may be - in the comments below.
- My original post in the hit
- Jason Pietroniro's thoughts and game preview
- Frame by Frame breakdown of the hit by new TCL contributor Stephanie Darwish.
- It's Not About the Headshots, Stupid! by Joe Corson