Zdeno Chara received a five-minute major and a game misconduct for his hit on Pacioretty. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
MONTREAL – Under normal circumstances, Zdeno Chara would almost certainly have an appointment sometime Wednesday with Colin Campbell. But since Campbell can’t deal with any discipline issues surrounding the Boston Bruins because his son Gregory plays for them, Chara will find himself speaking with Mike Murphy at some point soon.
In that conversation, Chara will be honest and sincere. He will tell Murphy that he had no intention of drilling Max Pacioretty’s head into the stanchion at the end of the Bruins bench when he hit him late in the second period of the game against the Canadiens Tuesday night. He will emphasize that, for the most part, he is not a dirty player and what happened to Pacioretty was a very, very unfortunate accident.
And he’ll be absolutely right on all accounts. In fact, for all we know, there’s a chance Pacioretty sustained more of his injury when his head hit the ice after he fell rather than when his head hit the turnbuckle. It was truly unfortunate that it happened and, despite the fact Chara got his arm up on Pacioretty, there’s not a sane person in the world who can think Chara could foresee what was going to unfold.
Unfortunately, the fact Chara isn’t Trevor Gillies or Matt Cooke doesn’t mean he should not have the book tossed at him by the league. Even the cleanest players in the league get reckless sometimes and that was the case with Chara on the hit on Pacioretty. A case of wanton recklessness should be enough to land Chara into some serious disciplinary trouble.
(As of late Tuesday night, there was no official word from the NHL whether or when there would be a disciplinary hearing into the matter. NHL goaltending supervisor Kay Whitmore, who was working the NHL’s war room along with Murphy Tuesday night, said they would have to study the incident further before deciding on a course of action.)
Particularly in this time of hyper attention on concussions - and we’re going to go out on a limb here and assume Pacioretty has a doozy - the league is under more scrutiny than ever when it comes to the safety of its players. Chara’s hit was not, repeat not, a classic head shot that should be addressed by Rule 48, but it was a clear case of interference. It’s the kind of hit you see all the time, but that doesn’t make it all right.
Put it this way. People run stop signs and red lights all the time. If you do so and get caught, there is small penalty. If you cause a major accident, there are far more serious ramifications and that’s the problem Chara is facing here. As Pacioretty lay motionless on the ice and the seconds turned to minutes, there were a good number of people in the Bell Centre who feared they might have witnessed the first on-ice death in the NHL since Bill Masterton in 1968. I had one pro scout who was in attendance tell me that he feared the worst and Los Angeles Kings pro scout Alyn McCauley, who suffered a number of serious concussions throughout his career remarked: “It brought back some memories…or lack thereof.”
The Chara hit on Pacioretty is one that is happening with increasing regularity. Just after the lockout that would have been an automatic penalty even if Pacioretty had skated away from the incident unscathed. But like a lot of the other aspects of the rule crackdown, there seems to be a decrease in the vigilance in calling it. This is a clear opportunity for the league to address that issue and remind the players they are the ones who have to be responsible for what they do on the ice.
Chara is, by all accounts, a stand-up guy. The fact he emerged after the game to address the media (see video below) and talk about the incident instead of hiding at the back of the team bus speaks volumes about his character and the fact he was truly concerned for Pacioretty’s well being.
But that doesn’t mean he should escape punishment. Instead of talking about Lars Eller’s two goals, the fact the Canadiens blocked 35 shots, Carey Price’s play or wondering whether the Bruins will suffer another playoff meltdown if they meet the Canadiens in the playoffs, we’re talking about another serious concussion.
And we can all thank goodness it wasn’t much, much worse.
PRODUCER: Ted Cooper