There have already been a lot of ink spilled about the Zdeno Chara hit on Max Pacioretty and the subsequent lack of supplementary discipline from the NHL. This is an issue, however, that does not deserve a few tweets, comments and blogs only to be forgotten in a week or a month or by the end of the season. This is an issue that deserves – that begs – for reams of passionate opinions to be voiced over and over again. Words must be written, spoken, and yelled if necessary until the deaf ears of the NHL understand our rage, our shame, our embarrassment.
For several moments, as I watched in nauseated silence, I was convinced that Max Pacioretty was dead. One moment the 22 year-old was – and the next moment, he wasn’t.
The violence on the impact was stunning, yes, but no more stunning than the complete stillness of his crumpled body and the hushed silence of a stunned Bell Centre crowd.
I echoed the crowd’s silence as I watched the trainers and doctors look for signs of life, signs of hope.
Flickering eyelids. A quivering lip. Words.
Finally, I too took a breathe.
A hearing before the judge.
I have heard and read a few comments from individuals stating that Max Pacioretty should have been aware of where he was on the ice. That is one hundred percent true. As a professional athlete, he should know at all times where he is on his playing surface. He should be aware of his surroundings and in control of his body. He needs to keep his head up and his wits about him.
Just like any player.
In any sport.
And Zdeno Chara is no exception. As one of the tallest and strongest athletes in the NHL, Chara needs to know where he is on the ice at all times and what his actions will mean. Obviously, the consequences can be disastrous. He needs to understand that. And the league needs to make all players understand that.
Apparently before that can happen we must first make the NHL understand that.
A word buzzing around the blogosphere and the Twitterverse since the incident has been “intent”. What was Chara’s intent? Was his intent to injure Pacioretty? Was his intent to finish a check? Was his intent to rough Pacioretty up a little? Was his intent to smash his head into the stanchion and break his neck?
The NHL disciplinarians try to understand and analyze “intent” when considering what, if any, sanctions to impose. Intent, however, is unknowable. We can never really know what someone else was thinking. Colin Campbell’s assistant decision-maker presumably asked the hulking Slovak what his intentions were.
But how many accused plead innocent before the judge?
What incisive questions did Mr. Murphy pose to gain entrance to the intimate thoughts of the hockey player?
Intentions do not matter.
And Zdeno Chara’s actions are not correct actions. Any action that leads to a severe concussion and a fractured vertebrae cannot be deemed acceptable.
Chara did not just finish a check. It was not a hockey play gone bad. Pacioretty did not have the puck. He was not about to touch the puck. Chara did not just use his body to push him against the boards and the glass.
Chara used his arms to push Max Pacioretty’s head into a stanchion when they were at speed. It was not just a body check. It was not a face wash or a quick blow when they were both already against the boards or against the glass.
Chara is a professional athlete who is paid to be in control of his body. He is paid to be aware of where he is on the ice. He is responsible for his actions.
Again, his actions were to use his arms to push against Max Pacioretty’s head until it collided violently with the stanchion.
The NHL is not right when they say that this is an ordinary interference call. I presume then that they disagreed with the referee’s game misconduct call?
Mr. Murphy, should Zdeno Chara have been back on the ice two minutes after this incident?
The NHL also suggested that Chara’s lack of “supplemental discipline” history came into play. The only time history should come into effect is when an individual is a repeat offender. A “clean” history should have no bearing on a misconduct or on a crime. Someone who has committed the same or similar crime multiple times should have a harsher punishment doled out because, obviously, they have not learned their lesson.
What’s really revolting is that the National Hockey League doesn’t think that any lesson needs to be learned. Basically they are saying that accidents happen. The game is fine, keep playing.
Come on kids, play hockey so one day you might have your C4 snapped as part of the game.
How far was Max Pacioretty away from dying?
Inches? Centimeters? Millimeters?
Today, and for days and weeks to come, I’ll be ashamed to be a fan of a sport governed by the NHL. With concussions on the rise and more and more evidence coming out about their disastrous affect that impacts to the head can have on the brain one would assume that the NHL would make an effort to protect the individuals who play the game.
To protect the players that kids look up to.
To protect players who are, basically, themselves still kids.
It’s a sad day for hockey fans.
But a sadder day for the Pacioretty family.
The real tragedy will be if this horrific injury doesn’t jar everyone into thinking differently about how we play – and how we enjoy – the game. If this hit bothered you and the lack of follow up and severe lack of consideration by the NHL bothered you, make yourself heard. Write comments. Write your own blog. Call-in to radio shows. Write to the NHL.
Tell them that this incident and their inactions are unacceptable. Do it for you, for your kids who play hockey, for Max Pacioretty and his family.