On Chara vs. Pacioretty

This has been blogged and newsed and commented to death, but hey, this is my blog, I’ll do what I want with it.

For those not up to speed, here are some videos and some commentary.
First, a video of the incident.

Those stanchions are brutal. Every player is terrified of them, but that also means every player knows where they are…
…Unless you’re Zdeno Chara, apparently:

And a transcript of the ruling, whereby Mike Milbury decides not to suspend Chara for the incident:

National Hockey League Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations Mike Murphy today issued the following statement on Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara’s hit in NHL game #996 last night against the Montreal Canadiens:

“I conducted a hearing with Boston Bruins’ defenseman Zdeno Chara with respect to the major penalty for interference and game misconduct that he was assessed at 19:44 of the second period for a hit on Max Pacioretty of the Montreal Canadiens.

“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.”

Some facts.
1 – Zdeno Chara clearly pushes Pacioretty to the side. Maybe intentionally into the post, maybe not. We’ll never know, but the push is there.
2 – The push came at a time when Pacioretty did not have the puck, and had not had it for quite some time.
3 – Fact 1 and fact 2 combine to form Interference. You aren’t allowed to interfere with a player who is not in possession of the puck.

I don’t understand how Mike Milbury can call this “a hockey play” when it was a play he admitted was outside the rules, an interference. It was as much a hockey play as an intentional high stick to the face or a kick to the groin. I say intentional because Chara clearly pushed Pacioretty, this was not an incidental contact of two players heading in the same direction.
I have a lot of respect for Chara as a defencemen, there are very few teams that wouldn’t want him in their lineup, but he’s been nominated for the Norris trophy (for the league’s best defenceman) twice, and won it once. I don’t buy that he didn’t know where he was guiding Pacioretty. He’s also stated that he didn’t know it was Pacioretty he was hitting in the first place (they have a bit of history of not liking each other). Again, a defenceman that good knows which other players are on the ice and where they are, so I don’t buy his claim.
I don’t think Chara wanted to put Pacioretty in the hospital, but it looks like he wanted to put him into that stanchion and he should have received a suspension. He has a clean record, so 5 games probably would have satisfied everybody involved. A repeat offender should probably have seen 20 or more for that hit.

By and large, the league blew this one. A suspension of a few games for Chara wouldn’t have been the end of the world, but the lack of suspension has the NHL looking like it really doesn’t give a rat’s ass about player safety.
They’ve been harping lately about eliminating headshots, but they’ve blown an opportunity to show that certain things won’t be tolerated. Instead of looking back at what’s been disciplined in the past, they should be looking to set new precedent. Sadly, it looks like a problem that won’t be fixed until the current batch of directors is gone. I would love to give the NHL an enema.

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