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Chara speaks up about Pacioretty hit; Habs owner questions NHL, Canada’s Prime Minister and Donald Fehr voice concern

Mar 10, 2011, 6:03 PM EDT

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There’s been a lot said from all sides about the Zdeno CharaMax Pacioretty incident and the NHL’s subsequent failure to impose punishment on Chara for his dubious hit that broke Pacioretty’s neck and gave him a severe concussion. While Pacioretty was released from the hospital today the war of words and debate rages on everywhere.

It started earlier today with Zdeno Chara reaffirming his take on the situation and serving to further infuriate Canadiens fans and those who disagreed with the NHL not suspending him. CSNNE’s Joe Haggerty spoke with Chara who said he was relieved to not be punished.

“[Pacioretty] is in the hospital,” said Chara. “He has the right to be emotional, and I respect that. As hockey players, we all feel bad when something like that happens no matter whether you’re the home team or the visiting team. There’s always concern when somebody gets hurt.

“It was a hockey play. It wasn’t intentional. That’s not my style. I never try to hurt anybody. It’s not what I attempted to do.”

As for the talk of the incident being investigated by Montreal police, Chara is well aware of what’s going on there.

“I’ve got some media info on [the police investigation] this morning,” said Chara. “I’m focusing on the game and playing hockey. We’ll see”

While Chara had his say today, Montreal Canadiens owner Geoff Molson issued a letter to Canadiens fans stating that they’ve made it clear to the NHL they do not agree with their decision. Molson joins Penguins owner Mario Lemieux as a member of the league’s Board of Governors who has publicly come out and lambasted the NHL for their lack of action concerning violent acts on the ice. While this incident differs greatly from what happened in Long Island between the Penguins and Islanders, it’s the alarming lack of safety for players that’s at the forefront of discussion.

Molson was direct and to the point with the NHL regarding his concerns.

Our organization believes that the players’ safety in hockey has become a major concern, and that this situation has reached a point of urgency. At risk are some of the greatest professional athletes in the world, our fan base and the health of our sport at all levels. Players’ safety in hockey must become the ultimate priority and the situation must be addressed immediately. As a proud father of three hockey players, I want to help create a healthy and safe experience for them, and I certainly never want any family to go through what the Pacioretty’s are experiencing at this moment.

We understand and appreciate hockey being a physical sport, but we do not accept any violent behavior that will put the players’ health and safety at risk. On this specific issue, I am asking for the support of the 29 other NHL owners, to address urgently this safety issue. And I am willing to play a leadership role in coordinating this group effort.

The words are powerful and Molson willing to embrace a leadership role rather than lecture from the pulpit takes what Lemieux did just last month and increase the vigor which league executives are trying to go about changing things. As always, our issue on matters like this when owners speak out is we’re wondering where the outrage and concern was when other players suffered horrible injuries because of terrible hits on the ice.

We know things matter differently when it affects you directly, but if things are boiling down this much so that teams are waiting until they’re dealing with a mess directly before speaking up about problems they see with the game, we’re in for a long wait before any sort of changes are made. After all, if teams continue to act disinterested as long as they’re not affected, change will never come about.

One of the sides in this whole affair that can help change things for the better as they see fit is the NHLPA. Executive Director Donald Fehr issued a statement pertaining to everything surrounding this situation. Disappointingly, Fehr made it more of a point to direct attention to how the rink is built rather than how players treat each other on the ice.

“Player safety has always been, and continues to be, a great concern to the Players’ Association. In that regard, issues involving the boards and glass in NHL arenas have been a longstanding focus for the players. The serious nature of the injury suffered by Max Pacioretty in Montreal this week reinforces the importance of maximizing the safety in this area and highlights the need to look further into the matter. We will be inspecting the rink in Montreal, and elsewhere, to make sure the appropriate padding is in place. We will continue to gather feedback from the membership, to ensure the safest possible work environment for our players.”

Dancing around the real problem of making sure players have some sense of respect for each other on the ice is disappointing but I suppose if they’re going to get the rinks to be safer that’s one very small step in the right direction. Whether that helps curtail the amount of violence players have toward one another remains to be seen. Addressing the players to make sure they’re not out to maim each other would make a bit more sense than simple architecture work.

As we’ve seen through this ordeal, it’s the sort of hot topic that brings out everyone to make a comment on things. Air Canada made their statement last night (to which commissioner Gary Bettman fired back upon today) and now Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is speaking his mind as well. Harper, in typically politically correct ways, spoke about how player safety should be a bigger concern in the sport.

“I just say this as a hockey fan, I’m very concerned about the growing number of very serious injuries, and in some cases to some of the premier players in the game,” Harper said at an event in Toronto on Thursday.

“I don’t think that’s good for the game and I think the league’s got to take a serious look at that for its own sake.”

Government figures speaking up on a hot topic is nothing new, but in the NHL is something a bit different. Getting noticed like that from on high doesn’t reflect well upon the the league and keeping off government radar in matters of safety should be a concern for the league.

We’re sure the NHL didn’t intend to have this much attention drawn to the sport in such a negative fashion, but we’re also pretty sure Zdeno Chara didn’t intend to break Max Pacioretty’s neck either. Unintended consequences are sometimes the hardest ones to deal with. We can only hope the NHL is prepared to continue facing up to the public backlash for not acting upon a violent hit that resulted in a horrible injury for the second season in a row.

  1. hulkhogan69 - Mar 11, 2011 at 12:35 AM

  2. derpdederpdederp - Mar 11, 2011 at 12:35 AM

    (gasp) looks like theres other areas of the ice players can get hurt. for all you suggesting players should avoid hitting near the stanchion, should players also avoid open ice hits like these? i mean the guy got concussed so where was the suspension? the sad part is the way the nhl treats hits resulting in injuries these days (with hypocrisy, inconsistency, and double standards) i wouldnt even be surprised if hits like this start getting punished. thankfully the nhl showed it was capable of some objectivity and made the right choice about chara. hopefully that sets a reasonable precedent

  3. thebigolddog - Mar 11, 2011 at 7:11 AM

    Geoff Molson is a hypocrite. Where was he when Max Pacioretty hit Mark Eaton from behind in December?

    But, when it comes to hypocrisy, nobody comes close to the man who employees Matt Cooke and made him a Captain. What’s Cooke’s body count now?

    Hockey is a distant 4th in America and that’s because of people like these two hypocrites.

  4. daveydawg - Mar 11, 2011 at 7:41 AM

    thank you for posting those 2 videos. and there’s many more. this whole thing is asinine. #66 and the Mon Dive team… without getting into name calling, I just don’t even know what to say about them. Hard to understand their hypocritical stance.

    I have an idea for the nhl… take away all the big protective equipment. maybe then, players will self-regulate the amount of force they use. keep the same waist down, but reduce everything else… I already know the problems with the idea, but still….

  5. joepags - Mar 11, 2011 at 8:56 AM

    anyone who votes for chara to get suspended should lose their “hockey fan card”, this hit was legal, just unfortunate how it ended. the players know the risks when they enter into professional sports, you dont stop firemen from running into a building to rescue people because others have died?… no, people know the risks of their professions!!! this is a joke that it has come to this!

    • councilbrad - Mar 11, 2011 at 10:37 AM

      anyone who thinks this is suspendable should lose their hockey fan card? You’ve got to be kidding me. Pardon me that I don’t think a penalty that led to breaking a guys neck is not a big deal. And you also say that the hit was legal…well actually it wasn’t. It was a penalty(interference) and it was rightfully called that way on the ice. I don’t think you’ll find anyone who doesn’t agree that it was a penalty. So if taking a penalty that leads to breaking a guys neck isn’t suspendable then what is? This whole situation is just a complete joke, and to see “fans” actually support the decision? just wow.
      And just so my stance is clear. Chara did NOT “intend” to break Patch’s neck or concuss him severely. Having said that, it most certainly was intentional to hit him into the pillar. It was a penalty, it was a dangerous, dirty play and as a long time hockey fan, i’ve NEVER been more disgusted with an on ice act. And more so never been so disgusted by the complete lack of action by the league. It is not right.

      • derpdederpdederp - Mar 11, 2011 at 10:42 AM

        yes, it was interference and called as such. chara got 5 and a game for it and the nhl correctly decided that was punishment enough. chara did not intend to slam max into the stanchion, he is just trying to ride him into the boards as any d-man would do in that situation. the injury is unfortunate but the league would be setting an unwanted precedent if it decided to start handing out suspensions based on resulting injuries. you dont just see fans supporting the decision, you see the majority of hockey experts from around the league doing the same. but hey, what do they know? they only played in the nhl. youre a lifelong fan so im sure you have a better understanding of the game

  6. councilbrad - Mar 11, 2011 at 11:32 AM

    I wouldn;t say the majority of hockey experts. It’s a lot more of a split decision then you think. I agree with you that they can’t suspend based purely on injury, which is why you don’t see people get suspended for a clean open ice hit that results in a concussion. To me, you should be held accountable if an infraction leads to a severe injury. That’s my only point, his neck was broken because of a penalty. Even a 1 game suspension would be something, but none is just wrong. And nobody can say for sure what the intent there was, but there is far too much weight with this whole intent thing. Even it was an accident, doesn’t really make any less of a horrible situation.
    And I beleive it was Henrik Sedin who spoke up yesterday and said that he beleives it was no accident that Pacioretty hit the pillar, only an accident that such a severe injury resulted. But he’s only a superstar in the league, so what does he know? It’s a hot topic debate, people on both sides of the coin. Not a one way street where most analysts and players are on Chara’s side. It’s far closer to 50/50 then you seem to think and it wouldn’t surprise me if an actual poll of all nhl players voted that Chara pushed him into the stanchion on purpose, not to be confused with breaking his neck and concussing him on purpose.

    • derpdederpdederp - Mar 11, 2011 at 11:46 AM

      funny how you say nobody knows for sure what intent was and then you go on to cite henrik sedin and make some suggestion about player polls. if intent cant be determined then what would the point of that poll be? i dont know why you consider it to be 50/50, ive only heard max and air canada come out really strongly against the hit. lets wait to see ron mclean and don cherry have to say about this. my guess is theyll side with the MAJORITY that believes that while the injury max sustained was unfortunate there is no basis for further punishment of chara

  7. councilbrad - Mar 11, 2011 at 11:50 AM

    I tend to think Cherry will be outraged by this, unless his Boston homerism comes through. Which hopefully it does not. We shall see…

    • derpdederpdederp - Mar 12, 2011 at 8:19 PM

      looks like youve been proven wrong, just as i expected. ill post the video soon

    • derpdederpdederp - Mar 13, 2011 at 12:45 PM

      here it is. i was gonna say if anything cherry would take issue with the design of the rink, but i wasnt sure how he could do that with this issue. looks like i shouldve gone with my gut feeling…

  8. derpdederpdederp - Mar 11, 2011 at 12:03 PM

    cherry is reasonably objective when it comes to issues like this. just last week he called the nhl out for suspending gillies, what makes you think he will take the pro- suspension bleeding heart side of this issue?

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