Chara vs. Pacioretty

The NHL and the sport of hockey has received a lot of negative attention this past week because of Zdeno Chara’s questionable hit on Max Pacioretty. This incident has spawned public outcry from many fans and sponsors including; Air Canada who threatening to pull its league sponsorship unless the NHL took more drastic actions to protect players, Prime Minister Harper who offered his two cents for those who thought it was of value, and half the city of Montreal who called 911 to report Chara’s “crime” to police. The whole situation has become a ridiculous soup opera that has energized the emotions of fans and caused a widespread epidemic of overreaction. What uber-emotional fans need to understand is that the play Chara committed on Pacioretty was a hockey play that occurs in every game. The only thing that sets this play apart from any other type of neutral zone hit or obstruction interference experienced in hockey was the severity of Pacioretty’s injury.

The idea of labeling Chara’s play as one with “intent” to hurt Pacioretty is an asinine accusation for two reason. First, there is no possible way to determine Chara’s “intent” unless he confirms after the fact what his “intent” actually was. Chara has clearly stated that he had no “intent” to guide Pacioretty into the stanton at the end of the bench; consequently, “intent” to injure has to be dismissed from the equation because this play was a common hockey play that occurs in every game. Second, any hockey player will tell you that at least 50% of hits delivered to an opponent contains “intent” to hurt that player. If players start getting suspended or charged because they have “intent” to hurt someone, I would wager most hockey teams would have a difficult time icing a team because so much of the physical aspect of hockey correspond with “intent” to hurt one’s opponent.

I don’t doubt that Chara knew where he was on the ice but hockey plays unfolds too fast to think “I’m going to drive this guys head into the stanton at the end of the bench.” The instinctive play to make in hockey when you are being beat wide with speed is to do what you can to slow your opponent down. This is essentially what Chara did but with an unexpected and extremely unfortunate injury resulting from the play.

I have scoured the web to find example of hockey plays that set out to accomplish three objectives. The first is to show that hits into the stanton or bench occur all the time and that sever injuries have happened from these plays before with little public outcry. The second is to show that there are far more obvious examples of “intent” to hurt one’s opponent than what the Chara hit demonstrates. The final objective of these clips is to show that hockey is a fluky and dangerous game where injury is often chalked up to luck.

This clip demonstrates that hitting is part of hockey and sometimes players end up in the wrong spot at the wrong time. The result of this hit is an unfortunate outcome but it’s the result of a hockey play. Jack Johnson has to make this hit regardless of where the glass starts/stops. The interesting thing about this play is that it happened about three years ago and there was no public outcry like what we are experiencing now despite the fact that Ryan Smith sustained a serious injury on the play. Perhaps the debate over this hit was less because it occurred in the US and it was between two American teams or maybe because the hit was deemed a hockey play with an unfortunate result.

This hit shows Tyler Ennis about a foot away from possibly ending up in the same state as Pacioretty. Note that the announcer says there was nothing wrong with the hit except where it occurs. There was no speculation of “intent” on this play despite the hit occurring in essentially the same spot as the Chara hit.

This hit is in the exact same spot as the Chara hit. These types of hits occur all the time in hockey and almost always get a huge cheer out of the crowd. However, Patrik Burgland is fortunate and doesn’t get hurt when he flies into the bench despite the fact that there is a ton of physical danger one can experience when getting hit into the bench. As a result, fans and the public don’t care. Would public opinion be different on hits that see player’s get hit into the bench if someone ended up with broken vertebra like Pacioretty?

This is another example of a hit that results in a player going into the bench. In this case it actually gives the announcers a laugh.

This hit is in the exact same spot but on the penalty box side of the ice where the glass is all the way down the boards. This hit shows the flukiness of hockey but also how the exact same hit Chara made resulted in no injury. The interesting thing about this play is to speculate whether there would be public outcry to change the glass used in arenas if Al Iafrate had been seriously injured.

To me this clip demonstrates more “intent” to injure a player than the Chara hit. Sergie Gonchar clearly tries to hurt an unsuspecting Cal Clutterbuck by blindsiding him when he doesn’t have the puck. The Chara hit on the other hand looks more like two players jockeying for position and one guy getting rubbed out in the worst possible place and experiencing the worst possible result.

These last two clips demonstrate the risk of hockey and how fluky of a game it can be. People get hit all the time and the difference between sustaining an injury and not is often chalked up to luck.

The point of all these clips is to show that hockey is a contact sport and that there is always risk. Some areas are more dangerous than others but even the so called “safe” areas are dangerous. Because hitting his part of the game players do not take into consideration what area of the ice they are hitting someone. If the hit needs to be made, it needs to be made. In the case of Chara, the play was interference so it was technically a penalty. The result of that interference play was at the edge of extreme. If Pacioretty wasn’t severely hurt I find it very hard to believe that anyone would even care. In fact, if Pacioretty was not injured the clip would have likely ended up on the bloopers reel for the week. In my opinion, the idea of taking legal action against a hockey player and charging them for making a hockey play that resulted in an injury is ridiculous. Hockey is the fastest contact sport in the world that incorporates a hard playing surface and hard equipment; consequently, injury is inevitable and often the result of misfortune. Hockey fans need to check their emotions and evaluate future situations with a less emotional and more rational perspective.

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One Response to “Chara vs. Pacioretty”

  1. Great post boot. I am glad we are of the same mind. An unfortunately incident but people need to give there head a shake. Have to say for once that I actually applaud Betman for basically telling Air Can to go suck on a lemon.

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