Friday, March 11, 2011

Your Comments On Chara/Pacioretty Hit

Thank you to everyone who sent in their comments on the Chara hit on Pacioretty. To no surprise, the reactions vary. Some blame Chara, while others believe the hit was not worthy of a suspension. Offside received some great and thoughtful comments.

Ultimately, my reaction was that Chara's actions were reckless but not criminal. That means the NHL should have suspended him, but I don't see a charge of assault causing bodily harm gaining any serious traction. Please see my previous entries for my take.

Here are some of the comments:

E in North Kingstown, Rhode Island

Let me first state that I wish for a full and speedy recovery for Max Pacioretty. Secondly, I am a lifetime Bruins fan. The NHL acted in an appropriate manner by not suspending Chara for his interference hit on Max Pacioretty. It was a simple interference rub out from a defenseman that was beaten on the play. The results were very unfortunate, scary to see, and troublesome. However, if we are to put blame on anyone, I believe that the NHL is responsible for not providing a safe field of play.

Further evidence that they already knew that stanchions posed a safety risk was indicative by the testing of new padding that they engaged in during the NHL Summer Research & Development camp. In addition, every rink in the NHL has different configurations for the benches and sometimes the same rink configures the stanchions between the benches differently depending on who is broadcasting the game.

Leonard from Toronto

I agree with your position 100%. Chara has been a clean player throughout his career, but looking at the replay over and over from different angles, he clearly intentionally shoved Pacioretty's head into the turnbuckle last second. Not sure what he was thinking at the time, but the intent to injure is obvious.

The hit took place exactly 7 years after the Moore - Bertuzzi incident, but I actually see the parallel between the Chara hit with the Moore hit on Markus Naslund a few weeks prior. Naslund was in a vulnerable position and Moore stuck his elbow out last second fully knowing that he would probably get away with it (it turned out he didn't get away with it). Chara was probably thinking the same thing, a chance to injure Pacioretty and play innocent and get away with it.

Guys like Matt Cooke see Chara getting away with it they are going to run the Tavereses and the Datsyuks into the turnbuckles next chance they get. Will the League suspend them then? 

Puck Sage (this is just an excerpt)

Let’s start with the important stuff:

I was very glad to hear Max Pacioretty was moving and speaking at the hospital. In the five + seasons Zdeno Chara has been in a Boston uniform, I have bought four jerseys, one another defensemen, none of them his. I have also played sports and been knocked out, as well as having been in car accidents. In his eleven year, nearly thousand game career Zdeno Chara has been suspended, just once, for one game for an incident during a fight.

... So in review:

•No history of discipline not directly related to a fight, and none at all in the past five years.

•Chara has repeated close, personal experience with players getting bad head injury.

•Physics (speed and mass differential) dictate that contact at this point will unfavorable to Pacioretty.

•Pacioretty made the initial move towards contact.

•Despite the more than half foot of height difference with the larger player reaching down to contact, there is no head contact.

•Chara did not put his full weight, stick, body or attentioninto the contact.

•Chara was not focused on Pacioretty after contact.

While people up and down Twitter, and no doubt other social media have compared this to the Bertuzzzi incident of years ago, its hard to find any real parallel. What happened was unfortunate, no question about it. Had the hit happened three strides further back, or three strides forward no one would have noticed anything other than Chara accumulating yet another career hit. I can understand the interference call, even the major. A suspension would be curious for a routine hit, in an unfortunate location when both players are moving at full speed.

Valerie W.

As I have been processing the various comments by hockey pundits, players, fans and others, I have come up with my own position.

If I cause a car accident in which someone else is injured, I am accountable for that injury regardless of my intent.

So it is my contention that Chara should be held accountable for his actions regardless of intent (which really cannot be proven). He knew where he was on the ice and he took an action (legal or not) that resulted in an injury to another player.

His “clean hitting record” should be a consideration in the sentencing but he should be sentenced. One might argue that that is exactly what the NHL disciplinary decision was in the sense that they mentioned his clean record as a mitigating factor in their decision. But that was after stating that they didn’t see anything inherently wrong with the play itself other than the interference that was called on the ice.

One definition of accident is: “An unexpected and undesirable event, especially one resulting in damage or harm”. NHL players should be held accountable for their on-ice accidents.

Will be interested in how you process all the comments you will receive. Above all this debate, let’s all put some our energy in wishing Max a full recovery.

Alexander G., Ottawa

Hope that things are going well. You've certainly been blogging pretty furiously lately...good stuff! Here are some of my thoughts on the incident.

Chara should have been suspended. What is the purpose of player discipline in sports? Is it to enforce the letter of the law? Partially, but that cannot be the only purpose. It must be broader than that; in actuality, player discipline acts as a deterrent mechanism for actions that are likely to injure other players.

In the NHL, history supports this, with three things springing to mind:

a) In the past, certain dangerous plays have resulted in discipline before there was a set in stone rule prohibiting the act (ie: shoulder to head hits); b) Historically, the extent of the injury suffered has been a factor in determining the extent of discipline; and c) Repeat offenders are traditionally punished more severely (ie: Trevor Gillies).

This shows that player discipline is more about respect for the game and protection of players than it is to enforce the rulebook. With this established, we can move on to intent, the fourth, and most contentious, matter.

First, what is intent? Do we mean intent to injure? Or, is it intent to carry out the act that caused the incident? Regarding intent, I would then split incidents into three categories:

a) Intent to injure. Bobby Clarke, Dale Hunter, Marty McSorley, Tie Domi on Samulsson, etc. Intent should be an overriding consideration in these cases, and players should be severely disciplined regardless of whether the victim is seriously injured. That is, unless it helps Canada win the Summit Series;

b) Intent to perform the act, but not to injure. This is the typical case, and this is probably where the Chara hit lies; and

c) No intent to perform the act, but the act was dangerous. Marian Hossa on Bryan Berard.

For both b) and c), a more holistic approach needs to be taken. Using the deterrence/protection criteria, reckless plays that result in injury need to be punished, even if unintentional and even, sometimes, if they were OK by the book. There are times in every game where a player is exposed and the chance for a debilitating hit arises. When Pacioretty lunged for the puck, he put himself in such a position. Pacioretty did not make a stupid play - he was not skating through the neutral zone with his head down or admiring a pass - it was simply a "hockey play" that left him exposed. Perhaps because of their history, perhaps because of the rivalry, perhaps because he was frustrated with the score at the time, perhaps because that is just the way he plays, Chara hit Pacioretty in that exposed positon and broke his neck.

So, while the hit may have been legal (although it likely fits the bill for boarding), it was a dangerous play with a high likliehood of causing injury. These plays ought to be discouraged, so this alone should be enough for a fine in the least. Add in that it was intentional, in the sense that Chara intended to hit Pacioretty in his exposed position, and the extent of Pacioretty's injury, and Chara should be looking at a fairly hefty suspension.

Rant over.

Paul M., Montreal

Based on their history (Pacioretty pushed Chara after a game winner, Chara went after him, the next game Chara took Pacioretty out of the game with a 2 handed slash) and the fact that I have played hockey long enough to know that Chara knew what he was doing that Chara's hit was intentional.

Chara should have been suspended for a minimum of ten games as intention should be looked at when determining suspensions and the length of suspension. There are enough facts that show motive for Chara to want to re-injure Max Pacioretty.

A player's history should be factored in when determining a sentence, BUT just because a player has no suspension history does not down play the fact that a player with no history can not viciously injure someone.

Finally, I am tired of some of the media being so neutral and giving Chara benefit of the doubt about his intention. The facts support he had motive to hurt Pacioretty as he had already the game before with a two handed slash.

D.D., Ottawa

"History should have played absolutely no role in whether Chara was punished or not. It was either right or wrong and until that little quip comes out of the decision making process The NHL will continue to be a joke."

Just a guess but Labor Law probably has something to do with that. Most workplaces account for past behaviour or incidents when handing out discipline and when they come down too hard and an appeal is made to a court or tribunal, the complainant ends up winning.

Jordan H.
My comment doesn't have anything to do with the morality of the hit, nor Chara's mindset when he made the hit. My question/comment has more to do with the idea of supplemental discipline after the hit and the legality of that. Mike Murphy has come out and made a statement saying that under the rules of the NHL as it stands, he could find no basis upon which to institute supplemental discipline. Which means that there is no rule that states in black and white what to do in this situation.
Assuming of course that Mike Murphy is correct, and that nothing Chara did aside from the fact that it was intereference, was beyond the rules, then the NHL's hands were tied. If they had bowed to fan and corporate pressure and suspended Chara simply because it didn't look good for the league, or because they were simply trying to make a statement, absent a rule to back it up, am I not correct in assuming that the NHLPA would have then been bound by their own charter to file a grievance on behalf of Chara protesting any suspension he got?
It seems to me that if the NHL had decided on a suspension based upon the "immorality" of the hit, or based upon the severity of the injuries suffered by Pacioretty, that the suspension would not have stuck anyways, as the NHLPA would have immediately filed a grievance, and WON, because any ruling would have had either no basis, or a flimsy basis on the NHL rule book.
Justin C., Montreal (excerpt only)
I saw your tweet and don’t mind sharing a few thoughts on the hit…
For starters, yes, I’m from Montreal , and yes, I’m a HABS fan, but I believe this hit and the non-suspension affect me well beyond the limits of my fanaticism.
Was this a ‘hockey play’, as Mike Murphy and the NHL have decided? Sure, it happened on an ice surface and looked an awful lot like a simple angling out of a player, but the fact of the matter is that Chara deliberately guided Pacioretty face-first into a wall of glass by extending his arms to obstruct a player 30 feet from the puck. Whether ‘deliberate’ equates to ‘intentional’ is, of course, impossible to accurately ascertain, but is also completely irrelevant to what was an inherently and egregiously violent and dangerous act.
I had mentally prepared myself for the slap-on-the-wrist suspension I expected from the NHL on this hit (which clearly deserved more), and was shocked and appalled by the complete neglect of their responsibility as an organization with the decision not to impose any supplementary discipline whatsoever. Even if they had handed out a 1-game suspension, the NHL could have, with one simple decision, declared this type of play unacceptable by league standards. By refusing to recognize the play as being beyond the realm of reasonable physicality within a hockey game, they’ve effectively endorsed a player’s right to run others, head first, into the extremely dangerous turnbuckle partition between and at the ends of benches. They’ve established a precedent whereby this type of hit and injury can occur again with the league handcuffed as they’ve already declared it an OK hockey play.
Max Pacioretty narrowly escaped this so-called ‘hockey play’ alive, and the next victim of this type of hit might not be so lucky. Where does the league draw a line in the sand? When does something become too much? We saw David Booth lose a year of his career to what was deemed a clean hit by Mike Richards last year, only to see that same hit happen over and over again until finally a player with a poor reputation forced the adoption of a new rule by putting Marc Savard (perhaps permanently) out of commission.

Article VI, section 6.1 of the NHL Constitution states that the NHL Commissioner is, “charged with protecting the integrity of the game of professional hockey and preserving public confidence in the League.” Unfortunately, it appears that an underdeveloped/antiquated understanding of the former responsibility is resulting in the complete neglect of the latter, and public reaction to the hit and non-suspension to this point may be a strong enough foundation on which to challenge (barring an interjection on his part) the ability of the NHL Commissioner to adequately perform his proscribed duties.

The culture of the NHL must change before this and similar types of dangerous plays and injuries (or, God forbid, a fatality) result on the ice, and the onus must be placed on the NHL to proactively protect its most important assets (no, not the corporate sponsorships—the players). Thus far, and particularly with the most recent demonstration of complete impotence in the wake of what was clearly an unacceptable act (by criminal standards, let alone hockey standards), I for one have lost all confidence in the current regime to do so.

Andrew, Ottawa

I do not share the same outrage that many seem to have. Probably should have been a one or two game suspension to send a message, but if that hit is anywhere else on the ice, we are not having this conversation.

If a Habs player had done this, I wonder if Habs fans would be up in arms about the hit- my guess is most of them would say nothing and even go to the extent of defending their player. That is the way it is- when your team is on the receiving end, your reaction is to complain- if your team is on the giving end, you don't complain. I am not saying I agree with this attitude, it is just the way it is.

I also wonder if this had been a game between Anaheim and San Jose, whether we would be hearing as much outrage. I say we would not be. In fact, there are only two teams in Canada that would generate this reaction- Habs and Leafs- I would venture a guess that if this had happened in Ottawa, there would be more muted reaction. I doubt Air Canada would be threatening to pull sponsorship or a federal minister would be piping up (the cynic in me believes the government is only speaking up because they are so desparate for votes, they will try anything). Montreal and Toronto get treated very differently than other teams (this is the same in every sport- Red Sox and Yankees, Lakers, Knicks and Celtics etc). When something happens to one of their players, there is an expectation that everyone in the sport should be outraged. As a person who is a hockey fan, but not a fan of the Habs, I have found the reaction in the past couple of days to be a bit over the top.

I notice that the Canadiens organization and the NHLPA have both been very quiet about it. I would be curious as to why that is.

I think it is ridiculous that the police are now investigating at the request of the prosecutor. Best of luck proving intent.

The NHL has a problem- there is no doubt. If this incident gets the ball rolling for changes, great. However, I doubt it will. If the NHL is prepared to remain silent while its most marketable and best player sits out because of a questionable hit, then it certainly is not going to be persuaded to act by this incident.

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