Posted by: mdegeorge | March 10, 2011

Just decision by NHL helps salvage ugly Pacioretty saga

Never in the past have I been shy about railing on the NHL’s occasionally farcical disciplinary process. (I think I got in a couple shots in the last week alone.)

But for once, Colin Campbell’s beleaguered office deserves plaudits for their handling of the Max Pacioretty affair.

The NHL’s highest jurist elected not to suspend Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara for his hit on the Canadiens forward that left him with a concussion and fractured vertebra. It left me, for one, shocked by the rare display of jurisprudence. The fact that the police in Montreal are launching an inquiry into the matter threatens to undermine that decision.

For far two long, the NHL’s punitive measures have been exclusively results based. Watch tape from any playoff game last season. The most innocent of stick-to-stick taps that happened to result in one or more broken sticks were automatic slashing calls. Meanwhile, you could wail away on the heavily padded upper legs or torso of players without reprisal as long as the twig you did it with remained in tact. Since it’s unlikely the likes of Stephen Walkom and his fellow officials were protecting the dignity of composite over that of humans in these cases, it’s safe to say the penalties were misguided.

The paradigm holds true for those still poorly-defined rules on open ice hits. Collisions with limited or no contact to the head that leave the hittee sprawled out on the ice are more likely to result in penalties that blows to the head in which the victim happens to skate away. I don’t expect NHL officials to understand the doctrine of double effect, but even a simplified version that forces you to look at the intent and the means rather than the results would fix a lot of the league’s ills.

Chara’s hit on Pacioretty, upon the umpteenth review, involved no contact to the head or intent to injure beyond what inherently appears to be there when a 6-foot-2 forward and a 6-foot-9 behemoth meet up.

What Chara did to Pacioretty is what he and Chris Pronger do basically every shift they’re on the ice: use their bodies to change the pace of the game and the trajectories of (often smaller) forwards. He’s a physical defenseman who makes his living by throwing around his weight. Were it not for the presence of that turnbuckle that Pacioretty unfortunately crashed into, Chara might not even have gotten the interference call, an infraction that he often gets away with.

Even Pacioretty’s game misconduct penalty in a December boarding of the New York Islanders Mark Eaton was more heinous than Chara’s hit. But since the result of the hit didn’t involve a stretcher, there was no need for police intervention (also because the Uniondale cops have their plates full I’m sure.)

Campbell’s office absolutely got this one right, and the hockey community has been almost universal in the acknowledgment of that fact. It may be difficult to stomach if you’re a fan of the Habs and Pacioretty. But there was no intent on Chara’s behalf.

The involvement of the Canadian police in the matter is merely a show of sour grapes (or maple leaves). It’s an attempt for the Canadians to exact a pound of flesh after not getting a decision in their favor from the league. I am ardently opposed to police or government involvement in the in-game happenings of sports unless is blatant and egregious.

This was merely unfortunate and accidental. Surely the police in Montreal must have something better to do.



  1. Matt, really? First, Chara’s hit was payback of the lowest order. Look at the footage from the January 8th game. Chara was enraged after a shove taken after Pacioretty’s winning goal. They were on each other ever since. Chara knew exactly where he was and who he was riding. It was late and the puck was long gone. Pull your head out of your pompous ass and consider the facts. These egregious hits must end, across the league, period. The real problem is with the colluding clowns within the NHL…Bettman, Campbell and Murphy. First, may I remind you that Campbell’s kid plays for the Bruins? I invite you to read up on the Warren report related to Campbell and his penchant for meddling in his son’s games. I’m sure you’ll be very amused to read the leaked emails by our esteemed Sr. VP Op, you’ll quickly discover true depths of unprofessionalism and favoritism. I’m also sure many a NHL official could fill your ear with a plethora of dish, however, I would venture a guess that they fear the wrath of the brass. Campbell couldn’t possibly make the ruling, so he had his resident patsy, Murphy do the do his dirty work. What a farce all of this is, it seems that opinions such as yours are mostly based on team biases and animosities rather than on the well being of the league’s players and the sport. I suggest you get over your biases (and yourself) and consider the incident for what it is, downright disgusting. We cannot as hockey fans tolerate these abuses. Flagrant abuses of power at the top of the organization right down to abuses on the ice. We’ve had another player come within millimeters of paralysis and probably within inches of death. This isn’t gladiators, it’s hockey for Christ’s sake.

  2. […] playoff pairing in NHL history (33 meetings) is one in which there’s no love lost, even before the controversial check by Boston’s Zdeno Chara laid up Montreal’s Max Pacioretty. It will be a brutal series dominated […]

  3. […] NFL, and other leagues, has long failed to grasp the idea that intent and result are different things, too often judging […]

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