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NHL decides not to fine or suspend Zdeno Chara for hit on Max Pacioretty

Mar 9, 2011, 4:12 PM EDT

Max Pacioretty AP

The NHL announced that Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara will not be suspended nor will he be fined for his vicious hit on Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty.

Some might seize the opportunity to describe this situation as “Murphy’s Law” because: a) everything that could go wrong did go wrong and b) Mike Murphy ended up making the verdict because Colin Campbell couldn’t, since his son Gregory Campbell plays for the Bruins. As you may know, Pacioretty is out indefinitely with a severe concussion and broken vertebrae, with some wondering if it will be a career-ending injury. Meanwhile, Chara won’t even miss a single NHL shift.

Perhaps the saddest thing about this situation is that this verdict isn’t nearly as shocking as it should be. The NHL’s system of discipline has been the target of long running jokes, but at this point, it’s not funny anymore.

Seriously, is there any rhyme or reason to the league’s policies on dirty hits at this point? How in the world does Chara go punishment-free when the league is trying to crack down on dangerous hits like these? It’s a disappointing decision at best for a league whose justice system wouldn’t be out of place in the Wild West.

Obviously, it’s impossible to say that Chara deliberately drove Pacioretty’s head into the stanchion, but the big Bruins defenseman should be aware of his location on the ice when delivering such a hit. The fact that Pacioretty let go of the puck well before Chara made contact with him underscores how unfortunate and dangerous Chara’s decision really was.

Here’s Murphy’s statement regarding the lack of a fine or suspension:

“After a thorough review of the video I can find no basis to impose supplemental discipline. This hit resulted from a play that evolved and then happened very quickly — with both players skating in the same direction and with Chara attempting to angle his opponent into the boards. I could not find any evidence to suggest that, beyond this being a correct call for interference, that Chara targeted the head of his opponent, left his feet or delivered the check in any other manner that could be deemed to be dangerous.

“This was a hockey play that resulted in an injury because of the player colliding with the stanchion and then the ice surface. In reviewing this play, I also took into consideration that Chara has not been involved in a supplemental discipline incident during his 13-year NHL career.”

I hate to say it, but this is a sad day for hockey. Then again, I know there are many of you who will side with the NHL’s verdict. So in the spirit of open discussion, I thought I’d poll the PHT audience to see where you all stand.

Was the league justified in doing nothing? Should he just have been fined? Or was a suspension the only logical conclusion? Let us know in this poll. (If you need to take another look at the hit, the video is at the bottom of this post.)

  1. shaka49 - Mar 9, 2011 at 4:51 PM

    You are asking the NHL to discipline a player solely because the opposing player became injured. There are more questionable hits, that go unpunished, because the opposed player got up and went to the bench and played his next shift.

    • derpdederpdederp - Mar 10, 2011 at 12:05 PM

      exactly. brad richards took a hit to the head that left him concussed but he didnt even fall down on the play. is that not still a hit to the head? where was the punishment for that?

  2. herborichoroso - Mar 9, 2011 at 5:23 PM

    Murphy’s statement made some sense and probably represents a reasonable interpretation of the rules as they stand today, but Max is still injured for life, and if this is the only thinking we are capable of, the NHL will be losing a lot of good players (Sidney Crosby?), and a lot of really great men will be losing their minds a few years from now. It’s already happening all over the NFL–players die at 45 from repeated blows to the skull. Back when they were hit too hard, we heard the same kind of “oh well, he didn’t break our weak little rules, you know” statement, and now look at them. If we have to “overenforce” the rules and make the game a little less exciting, in order to avoid literally killing the good players, I say do it. (Speaking as a fan with 4 season tickets)

  3. Grady Congleton - Mar 9, 2011 at 5:27 PM

    The fact of the matter is that hockey is a fast game. There are hazards in a “cage” that hockey is played in. There are opposing players, sticks, stanchions especially those that separate the benches, doors (bench doors and zamboni doors which rattle around and break free sometimes, rarely does that happen though), referees (four of them moving around the ice), hockey nets and even players sitting on the benches. On top of that, there’s a flying projectile called a hockey puck which zooms around this “cage”. Hockey is a violent sport. Chara is 6 foot 9, and I do not believe he ever intended to hit him that particular spot at that particular moment. It’s unfortunate, and I pray for the well-being of this New England kid (being a proud New Englander), but you just cannot say this was a heat shot because quite frankly, there was no blow to the heat. It was the stanchion that did it during a very routine hockey play (called “rubbing along the boards” and just so happens to be in the worst spot of the rink). Right now, we should be focused on the well-being of this kid and move on. This is in no way the same as the Bergeron or Savard hit, and twice the Bruins had to deal with this. Don’t think they’re smiling right now.

  4. davem23 - Mar 9, 2011 at 6:11 PM

    The only one that should be fined is the architect that desgined that obstacle. It was really just a matter of time and if anyone believes Chara’s intent was to inflict serious injury, please reconsider. I not a fan of either team. But what were they thinking?

  5. samiratou - Mar 10, 2011 at 9:57 AM

    I think assessment of this hit depends on whether you take the short or the long view.

    Like the NFL, players are getting stronger and faster every year, and bad hits are coming more and more frequently. The NHL needs to start sending messages that players need to be aware of where they are and what they’re doing, or the NHL will face the same issues the NFL does now with regards to concussions and serious injuries (they do now, really, but without the hyper media focus).

    I don’t believe that Chara had any malicious intent, and that arena design probably did play a role in this incident (as well as Chara’s size), but I voted minor suspension just because the NHL is going to have to deal with this more and more, and they’re better off laying the groundwork now that questionable hits won’t be tolerated because of the damage they can do. The puck was out of Pacioretty’s control–the hit was unnecessary and really shouldn’t have happened, regardless of the outcome.

  6. derpdederpdederp - Mar 10, 2011 at 11:29 AM

    absolutely the right call by the nhl. too many times were seeing players penalized and suspended because of a resulting injury, not because of the nature of the hit. 5 and a game was more than enough considering had max not been injured it would have been a 2 minute minor

  7. sk8rnnfalls - Mar 10, 2011 at 3:27 PM

    This is what happens when you have a giant playing in the NHL. Things like this WILL happen. It’s all part of the game. Chara is not a favorite player to many unless you live in Boston. Wehn the B;s play here in Buffalo, Chara gets booed EVERY time he touches the puck (which is funny). Chara is the type of player i’d welcome on the Sabres ANYTIME!!!!

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