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Chara’s Hit On Pacioretty

Late in the second period of Tuesday night’s Boston at Montreal game (which Montreal won 4-1), Zdeno Chara caught Max Pacioretty with a serious hit.  Pacioretty had gotten rid of the puck about a second before the hit.  Chara’s hit knocked Pacioretty into the glass divider at the end of the visitor’s bench.  Pacioretty suffered a severe concussion.  This is a situation where the result is quite serious.  Chara was not suspended.

The NHL has a problem with concussions.  Far too many players are suffering them and they are ending careers and affecting player’s quality of life after retirement.  Sidney Crosby was well on his way to a Hart Trophy season before he suffered a concussion.  He hasn’t played in over months and it is unclear if he will be back this season.  This is affecting the NHL at the box office as well as on an individual player level.

With that said, Zdeno Chara’s hit was basically a hockey play.  It was an interference penalty as Pacioretty had got rid of the puck far enough in advance of the hit.  There are hundreds of interference penalties in a hockey season.  They are two minute penalties.  Hits that are equivalent to Chara’s get two minute penalties all the time.  The differences were that Pacioretty hit a glass divider and the Chara towers over him in size.  That made this hit one that resulted in a very serious injury. 

It is defensible that Chara did not get a suspension.  He was given a five minute penalty and a game misconduct, largely due to the seriousness of the injury.  It is a problem with the NHL’s suspension policy that the result is often punished and not the deed.  That isn’t a good preventative when two essentially identical hits occur and one results in a two minute penalty, while the other results in a suspension, due to the health of the player who took the hit. 

The other problem with the NHL’s suspension policy is that star players do not get as harsh suspensions as lesser players.  Zdeno Chara is one of the bigger stars in the NHL and it is no surprise that he would get off light.  It is quite likely that a lesser player would have been suspended a few games.

This doesn’t address the suspension problem.  Hockey is a fast game and suspensions are occurring more and more frequently.  There is a more systemic problem when a hit that is not too uncommon can turn into a serious suspension.  This isn’t a problem that more “respect” among players can solve.  In this particular case, better padding at the point where the glass partition starts at the end of the benches could prevent similar injuries.

Bowing to political pressure, the Montreal police are investigating this situation to see if they should press charges.  That is overstepping their bounds.  This was a play which is usually worth two minutes in penalties.  As a result of a serious injury that made the play look more heinous than it actually was, some people want to see a serious punishment.  The police getting involved in NHL punishment decisions is usually a mistake.  It is done for reasons that are never objective or consistent.  Unfortunately Max Pacioretty’s injury is a risk of the game.  The focus should be on systematically reducing these risks.  Concussions are too common in today’s game.  In this case the biggest contributing factor to Pacioretty’s injury is the glass partition where the bench ends.  That hazard needs to be better padded or otherwise protected from players.

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Comments

Chris from NOHS's avatar

Other than the fact that this has got to be the choppiest written article I’ve ever seen-even from you- I generally agree with most of the various points made.

1.) Chara’s hit was a simple interference penalty. Considering the situation I can see giving the 5 and a game for it as it was a dangerous play.  But for once, the NHL made the correct decision to not penalize the player for the injury and rather for his action.  Was it because he was a star?  Probably didn’t hurt, but it still is the right decision. 

2.) People are making way too big of a deal about this.  It was a freak occurrence from a generally harmless play that rarely happens.  There was no intent or even reckless play, it just was a freak occurrence that can and will happen in a rough sport such as the NHL.

Posted by Chris from NOHS from Columbus, OH/Grand Rapids, MI on 03/11/11 at 03:12 AM ET

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I was in the Bob McKenzie camp on this one…  I think a hit like this one deserves about one to three games, because it’s reckless, irresponsible, and dangerous.  I’d like to see that applied consistently whether people are injured or not on the play.  Send out a leaguewide message stating that it wasn’t suspended in the past, but now if people cause that kind of hit at those spots on the ice, they’ll be suspended.  Just like how you get a high sticking penalty even if it’s clearly an accident.  I would argue Jack Johnson should’ve been suspended for the Ryan Smyth hit as well when it happened.

When people say Chara maliciously guided his head into that hard corner, I ask them to watch the following clip from the 1:20 to 1:30 mark.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ycg97kKRV4s

Now that’s maliciously guiding someone’s head for a deliberate hit in my mind.

Posted by HitokiriEric from Ann Arbor, MI on 03/11/11 at 03:47 AM ET

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First, the cover of Le Journal de Montréal Wednesday morning showed the exact moment of impact. Pacioretty’s head meats the stanchion and Chara’s elbow is right behind his head, up against it.  The would seem to belie this argument this was just an interference penalty.

Second, as many players, from Carey Price and Scott Gomez to Joe Thornton and Henrik Sedin have noted, you have to know where you are on the ice, and all players do. I know this from playing hockey for 30 years myself.  I always know where I am on the ice by the view, and my peripheral vision.  And Chara had to know that. 

That’s what takes this from interference into a suspendable play.  I don’t think Chara is dirty, I just think he made a very poor decision and an opposing player nearly died.  It will happen that an NHL player is going to be paralysed, brain damanged, or killed on the ice.  And that morning, we’ll all sit around and see all the warnings that were in the game beforehand, hits by the likes of Randy Jones, Matt Cooke, and Pavel Kubina the other night.  And we’ll wonder why something wasn’t done then.

The NHL is operating on thin ice here, pardon the pun.  And the NHLPA is just as complicit.  Donald Fehr blamed the glass.  Great argument.  Next time a player breaks a finger blocking a shot, it’s clearly the fault of the puck.

My faith in the NHL and the NHLPA has been deeply shaken by this event.

Posted by R.T. Elder on 03/11/11 at 12:32 PM ET

Moq's avatar

My beef with the NHL, and their reluctance to deal with excessive violence, started long before the Chara “hit”. Violence that caused an unnecessary amount of injuries and concussions. Unfortunately many seem adamant about trivializing the issue.

I think it’s difficult to evaluate the Chara incident with crystal clarity. You can’t make assumptions of intent to injure Pacioretty, that’s purely speculative without an affirmative statement by Chara. There’s little chance of that happening. But I think you can argue that Chara made an unnecessary dangerous play. The images I’ve seen seems to prove that Chara plants his arm/elbow in Pacioretty’s face immediately before the accident. That’s not an innocent interference, nor a hockey play. So, yes, there should have been a suspension for a reckless play. I want to see dangerous stupidity punished by suspensions as well.

From my point of view, (major) interference isn’t a hockey play no more than punching someone in the face. I need a clearcut definition of “hockey play” to label it as something other that lazy apologetics.

Posted by Moq from Denmark on 03/11/11 at 12:39 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

I argue that this was an interference penalty.  Similar hits resulting in interference penalties are not uncommon.  While it may not be technically a legal hockey play it is common enough that one should not be too shocked to see a hit like that.  It should be expected by players on both teams.  That doesn’t mean Chara is totally blameless, I am a bit surprised with no suspension (particularly for public relations reasons and I am certain a lesser player would have been given at least a game or two), but that is a defendable position.

The result was uncommon.  The biggest reason that the result was disproportionate to the hit is the start of the glass at the end of the boards.  This is a point where the set-up of the arena makes a player particularly vulnerable.  That is something the NHL needs to act to fix.

As for people who are trying to blame Chara with something terribly malicious, they are (for the large part) people who have never played hockey.  They do not realize how fast the game is.  They do not realize that players do not conciously think through every reaction to every event.  The game is played on “muscle memory”.  You read and react to the play the way that years of practise have conditioned you to do it.  Chara does not have the benefit of slow motion replay that we have used to watch the play (multiple times each).  I am pretty certain he had no idea exactly where and when he made contact with which body part immediately following the play.  He needed replays to figure that out.

Of course the Montreal press wants to do whatever they can to sensationalize the situation, so they put the picture that most makes Chara look evil on the front page of their paper.  One picture doesn’t tell the story.  The biggest story-teller is watching the hit in real-time at full speed,

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 03/11/11 at 12:58 PM ET

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Um, timely article?

Pacioretty suffered a severe concussion.  This is a situation where the result is quite serious.

Oddly enough, no mention of the fractured vertebrae anywhere in your post.  That’s right, three days to write this gem, and you don’t mention the play resulted in a guy having his neck broken.

With that said, Zdeno Chara’s hit was basically a hockey play.  It was an interference penalty as Pacioretty had got rid of the puck far enough in advance of the hit.  There are hundreds of interference penalties in a hockey season.  They are two minute penalties.

As other have pointed out, if its a penalty, its by definition not a “hockey play” because its not allowed.  Boarding and roughing also happen hundreds of times each year, and both can be 2min minors.  On the other hand, boarding can also be a 5min/match penalty depending on how severe it is, and roughing can lead to suspensions when its of the “sucker punch” variety or, for example, if it leads to breaking somebody’s neck.  Its called intent to injure, and it can be applied to almost anything that might otherwise be a routine 2min minor - so I’m not sure what the number of times interference happens has to do with this.

This isn’t a problem that more “respect” among players can solve.

Chara has played this game for quite sometime, are you telling me he has no idea where the stanchions are?  Are we really going to accept that players can’t be expected to lay off checking opponents in especially dangerous situations?  This is absolutely a question of respect.

better padding at the point where the glass partition starts at the end of the benches could prevent similar injuries.

Hilariously cynical, how much more padding should they add? Apparently, this didn’t seem to be enough padding to absorb the impact of a giant elbow to the back of the neck.

Maybe replacing the glass and boards with foam padding prevents this injury.  Lets also bubble wrap the players and make them wear neck braces, that should help too.  Part of the problem also seems to be the game moves too fast for players to make good decisions about safety, so lets lower the quality of the ice, maybe have the players wear parachutes for increased drag.

For reals though, I don’t think Chara has a rep as a dirty player and in this case I think he made a bad decision.  I’m not psychic, but I think the intent was for an “impact” hit, and it just happened to be much stronger than he anticipated.  The league AND the players bear the responsibility to make the game safer…and I don’t think either are doing as much as they should.  Hockey needs to take a hard look at how their players are coached on the way up to the NHL, because I’m getting the sense that once they’re at that level its too late to change their game.

Posted by dumbasrocks on 03/11/11 at 01:46 PM ET

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I think a hit like this one deserves about one to three games, because it’s reckless, irresponsible, and dangerous.  I’d like to see that applied consistently whether people are injured or not on the play.  Send out a leaguewide message stating that it wasn’t suspended in the past, but now if people cause that kind of hit at those spots on the ice, they’ll be suspended.

Seems to you might suspend Garry Bettman for for poor rink designs allowed first. Any High Stick is also reckless and irresponsible and dangerous but the you would seem to argue that if you are really really unlucky and your unintentional high stick takes out some guy’s eye you need special censure, compared to the average player who was more or less just lucky and created no real injury.

Posted by paulklos on 03/11/11 at 01:46 PM ET

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As for people who are trying to blame Chara with something terribly malicious, they are (for the large part) people who have never played hockey.  They do not realize how fast the game is.

I think this excuse is getting old.  “Its not my fault I miss-timed my check, the game moves to fast.”  Why oh why do we accept that instead of telling players that if they can’t safely make a play they need to not make it?  It is possible to safely play contact sports without removing the contact, you just have to be good and smart.

Also, the whole “they never played the game so they don’t get it” argument needs to go too.  The punditry in hockey is littered with too many former goons who have “played the game” yet are absolutely clueless, commenting on a game that has passed them by, yearning for the days of no helmets and wooden sticks. 

They do not realize that players do not consciously think through every reaction to every event.  The game is played on “muscle memory”.

Yes, and if your muscle memory is based on years of trying to crush players every chance you get, instead of just playing the puck, you will be more likely to cross the line and do something “you didn’t mean to do”.  I’m honestly surprised this doesn’t get called out more. Not necessarily in Chara’s case, but there are many players in various sports who consistently make reckless decisions, and its just accepted as “one of those things”.  Meanwhile there’s countless examples of physical players who don’t put their opponents at risk, and this is what, magic?  It’s such a surprise when Pronger makes another questionable hit right?  And yet, he’s not the only hard-hitting defenseman in the league.  How strange.

Posted by dumbasrocks on 03/11/11 at 02:08 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

I think this excuse is getting old.  “Its not my fault I miss-timed my check, the game moves to fast.”  Why oh why do we accept that instead of telling players that if they can’t safely make a play they need to not make it?  It is possible to safely play contact sports without removing the contact, you just have to be good and smart.

That isn’t what we tell players and you know it.  If you don’t hit the player and finish the check you ride the pine.  You sit on the bench.  You lose your job.  You go to the minors.  We tell players that they have to play right near the edge of what is acceptable in terms of safe play or else you won’t play at all.  When you play near the edge at fast speeds, it is inevitable that sometimes accidents happen.  Sometimes serious injuries happen.  We demand that as fans.  If they didn’t play right on the edge, we would see that those players are replaced with others who will.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 03/11/11 at 02:19 PM ET

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If you don’t hit the player and finish the check you ride the pine.  You sit on the bench.  You lose your job.  You go to the minors.

Yes, I can close my eyes right now and imagine guys like Bourque, Orr and Lidstrom constantly getting ear-fulls from their coaches for not playing on the edge of that precipice. 

If they didn’t play right on the edge, we would see that those players are replaced with others who will.

So, if Chara only made crushing hits against the boards or on open ice, he’s taking his 105mph slapshot to a beer-league?  If Cooke lays off the head-shots, his 15goals from the 3rd/4th line are useless? 

it is inevitable that sometimes accidents happen

It is, unless something is done to change the culture at the lower levels.  I also think you’re unfairly portraying many of the league’s coaches who clearly don’t echo the sentiment of “play on the edge or you’re gone”. 

We demand that as fans.

I’d prefer it if you didn’t speak on my behalf.  Also, to pretend that NHL fans aren’t divided on this issue is to ignore what’s been going on for the last few years…and you know it.

Posted by dumbasrocks on 03/11/11 at 02:33 PM ET

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As for the people who claim that this hit was an elbow to the back of the neck,  (dumbasrocks) the link you provided makes it CLEAR that there was absolutely no contact made between the elbow of Chara and the neck of Pacioretty.  He hit him with his forearm in the shoulder.  As for him not knowing exactly where he is on the ice, I doubt any of them knew exactly where they were..  It just moves too fast.

I know this is a very weak argument, but look at where Chara is facing in the link that you provided dumbasrocks.  If you hit someone with intent to injure them, you’ll want to see what you’re doing, not where you’re going after the hit.  He was looking straight forward, even away from Pacioretty.  I think what may have happenned was he intended to hake the same check along the glass, parallel to it, not head-on.

Still, this being said, it was a hit with unnessecary force for the situation.  I would have liked to see one game suspension, not because of the injury, but because of the force Chara put behind the hit, compared to the amount of force that would be reasonable for the situation.

Posted by Dan from Ottawa on 03/11/11 at 02:49 PM ET

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As for the people who claim that this hit was an elbow to the back of the neck,  (dumbasrocks) the link you provided makes it CLEAR that there was absolutely no contact made between the elbow of Chara and the neck of Pacioretty.

You’re totally right, I hadn’t looked at that link since yesterday and, as our elected representatives would say, “misremembered” re: elbow + neck.  Thanks for setting that straight.

If you hit someone with intent to injure them, you’ll want to see what you’re doing, not where you’re going after the hit.

First, I don’t see how you could begin to demonstrate that being the case, you’re welcome to try though.  Second, I don’t think there’s been an explicit “intent to injure” argument (at least that’s not my point), so much as there was an argument that after spending over 20 years playing hockey, you probably know where you are on the ice.  If you are so unaware of your surroundings, then surely there’s an argument that you shouldn’t be making that hit to begin with.  I think Chara went for the big hit in a dangerous spot, and ended up with more than he bargained for. 

For me this is less about Chara and more about the impression of the NHL and the players seemingly being ok with the lack of respect in the league.  Its not about vilifying Chara - as somebody that sympathizes with Bertuzzi, to an extent, for the result of something equally un-likely, I can’t turn around and crucify Chara - but its about the league and the players waking up.  To the extent that it still exists in dressing rooms throughout hockey, the notion that PSH brings up, of playing on the edge or not at all needs to go.  I think the game has out-grown that.  Working hard and playing physical are not synonymous with recklessness.

Posted by dumbasrocks on 03/11/11 at 03:19 PM ET

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Hockey violence, whether deliberate or inadvertent, needs to be addressed and I don’t mind local authorities stepping in whether the NHL chooses to address such issues or not. Violent fights and personal injuries are offences when conducted in public. So, I don’t think the same behaviours -whether in an NHL game or other sport - should be tolerated.
Going forward, regarding NHL penalties for injury, I’d like to see the offending party suspended until the injured player returns to the ice, then whatever penalties are applied should come into effect.  We would still see tough hockey- hockey that we love -  but the ‘goon factor’ and general viciousness of hits would diminish IMHO if this were implemented.

Posted by Richard Diggins on 03/11/11 at 04:49 PM ET

PaulinMiamiBeach's avatar

I think a hit like this one deserves about one to three games, because it’s reckless, irresponsible, and dangerous

if checking someone in that area of the ice is reckless, irresponsible, and dangerous…why is it so rare that anyone gets hurt like this?

a player could fall awkwardly and be severely injured from nearly every instance of physical contact in every single hockey game.  does that make all of those hits reckless, irresponsible, and dangerous?

it was a freak accident.  players get checked in that area of the ice all the time and you don’t see repeated instances of them going face first into the end of the glass.

Posted by PaulinMiamiBeach on 03/11/11 at 05:02 PM ET

PaulinMiamiBeach's avatar

Hockey violence, whether deliberate or inadvertent, needs to be addressed and I don’t mind local authorities stepping in whether the NHL chooses to address such issues or not. Violent fights and personal injuries are offences when conducted in public. So, I don’t think the same behaviours -whether in an NHL game or other sport - should be tolerated.

if I run up to you in the mall and smash into you, knocking you to the ground, that’s assault - a crime.

by your standard all physical contact in all sports should be handled by legal authorities.

Posted by PaulinMiamiBeach on 03/11/11 at 05:15 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

Paul

It is even worse than that.  If I shoot a hockey puck in your direction if you are in a shopping mall that would be assault.  Naturally the authorities must arrest anyone who shoots a hockey puck at people in a hockey game.

I don’t expect Richard Diggins has watched or played sports much, but he is here to force his morality into the realms he knows nothing about anyway and he doesn’t care if it destroys those realms or not.  In fact it might be better if it did, it would be his way to get back at those jocks who taunted him in high school.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 03/11/11 at 05:35 PM ET

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if checking someone in that area of the ice is reckless, irresponsible, and dangerous…why is it so rare that anyone gets hurt like this?

I would argue that getting checked into the stanchions is pretty rare, which is why there are so few injuries resulting from such hits (not because it isn’t dangerous, as you’d have us believe). Sucker-punches leading to fractured necks are also rare, but they have happened, and when they do the player is severely punished.

a player could fall awkwardly and be severely injured from nearly every instance of physical contact in every single hockey game.  does that make all of those hits reckless, irresponsible, and dangerous?

This is such a facile argument.  There’s a qualitative difference between routine checks that primarily serve to separate puck from player, and overly aggressive reckless checks that have a far higher risk of injury.  To make it seem like its all equal, and that this incident carried with it the same level of danger to most other physical play in the league is absurd.  Its kind of why certain checks are punished more severely than others…but you knew this.

players get checked in that area of the ice all the time

Again, no.  Like open-ice hits, checks near the benches are much rarer than most other checks…you can tell, cause we all jump out of our seats cheering when they happen.  This wasn’t even the kind of hit where a player is dumped into the bench by a fairly perpendicular hit, this was a player being “rubbed out” onto the stanchion.  I think there’s a difference.

Posted by dumbasrocks on 03/11/11 at 05:37 PM ET

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I don’t expect Richard Diggins has watched or played sports much, but he is here to force his morality into the realms he knows nothing about anyway and he doesn’t care if it destroys those realms or not.

Yeah, I’m sure he found his way to this obscure-ass blog just to comment on a sport he doesn’t care about.

Doesn’t mean he’s right, just means you’re probably not in your assessment of him.

Posted by dumbasrocks on 03/11/11 at 05:44 PM ET

PaulinMiamiBeach's avatar

I would argue that getting checked into the stanchions is pretty rare, which is why there are so few injuries resulting from such hits (not because it isn’t dangerous, as you’d have us believe). Sucker-punches leading to fractured necks are also rare, but they have happened, and when they do the player is severely punished.

the difference is that one is expected by the opposing player (the checking).  by definition, a sucker punch is not expected.  it is also completely illegal in the context of NHL rules, whereas checking is not.

apples and oranges.

again, no.  Like open-ice hits, checks near the benches are much rarer than most other checks…

my comment was that they happen all the time, not that they happen as much as or more than checks in other areas of the ice.

Posted by PaulinMiamiBeach on 03/11/11 at 05:58 PM ET

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the difference is that one is expected by the opposing player (the checking).  by definition, a sucker punch is not expected.  it is also completely illegal in the context of NHL rules, whereas checking is not.

Pacioretty is such an idiot, how did he not expect Chara to try to remove his head on the stanchion?

Look, there’s absolutely no doubt, we all know that checking isn’t illegal…except when it is. Take cross-checking; not only is it not allowed, but the NHL even made it easy to see checks can be illegal by putting the word check in the name of the actual penalty!

Boarding, along with several other penalties, is just an illegal check…and half the reason its so dangerous is that it isn’t expected. I mean, haven’t we just seen the NHL legislate new punishments for certain hits, specifically hits of an un-expected (one might say blind-sided) nature?

This isn’t about taking checking out of the game.  Its about getting players to err on the side of caution when the question is “do I absolutely crush this guy as hard as I possibly can, or not”.  A world where Chara passes on hitting Pacioretty because they’re running out of bench is preferable, to me, than seeing a stretcher.  Not only that , but its also a world where Chara can level him against the boards at a later date, when its safer to do so.

If you think that play needs to be protected, then I don’t know what to tell you.  I guess you can keep telling yourself that was a routine play, with normal levels of risk.  I’ll just have to hope that never happens to Helm if a defenceman thinks the only way to cope with his pace is to check him into the stanchion.

Posted by dumbasrocks on 03/11/11 at 06:32 PM ET

PaulinMiamiBeach's avatar

Pacioretty is such an idiot, how did he not expect Chara to try to remove his head on the stanchion?

I didn’t say that, did I?  I said he could expect to get checked, and sometimes it’s bad timing and/or a completely freak accident.  Modano had tendons in his hand severed after being checked.  does that mean the check itself was reckless and dangerous, or do these players play in a sport where it basically boils down to “sometimes shit happens?”

I argue the latter.

Look, there’s absolutely no doubt, we all know that checking isn’t illegal…except when it is. Take cross-checking; not only is it not allowed, but the NHL even made it easy to see checks can be illegal by putting the word check in the name of the actual penalty!

so I should have called it BODY checking to be more specific…since that’s what Chara’s hit was I assumed that context was understood.

Boarding, along with several other penalties, is just an illegal check…and half the reason its so dangerous is that it isn’t expected. I mean, haven’t we just seen the NHL legislate new punishments for certain hits, specifically hits of an un-expected (one might say blind-sided) nature?

yes, and Chara’s hit meets none of those standards, IMO.  I don’t even think that type of check should be considered interference.

This isn’t about taking checking out of the game.  Its about getting players to err on the side of caution when the question is “do I absolutely crush this guy as hard as I possibly can, or not”. 

Chara didn’t crush him as hard as he could have.  in fact, had he done that we probably wouldn’t be talking about this because Pacioretty would have ended up just completely going over the boards into the bench.  so in this case, it’s actually BECAUSE Chara didn’t check him as hard as possible that he ended up trailing along the top of the boards and into the end of the glass.

A world where Chara passes on hitting Pacioretty because they’re running out of bench is preferable, to me, than seeing a stretcher.  Not only that , but its also a world where Chara can level him against the boards at a later date, when its safer to do so.

If you think that play needs to be protected, then I don’t know what to tell you.

I think it needs to be understood that no matter how many rules you make, unless you completely take physical contact out of the sport there will be freak occurrences like this.

I guess you can keep telling yourself that was a routine play, with normal levels of risk.

“normal?”  what is normal?

  I’ll just have to hope that never happens to Helm if a defenceman thinks the only way to cope with his pace is to check him into the stanchion.

again, I do not believe Chara intended to check Pacioretty into the end of the glass.

Posted by PaulinMiamiBeach on 03/11/11 at 06:39 PM ET

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I do not believe Chara intended to check Pacioretty into the end of the glass.

Well why didn’t you just say that? smile

I didn’t say that, did I?  I said he could expect to get checked

Sure, during the course of a game, they guy should expect that he’ll get checked.  Times/scenarios he shouldn’t expect it include just before he made out with the stanchion. 

Chara’s hit meets none of those standards, IMO

Didn’t say it was a blind-side hit, just that the NHL takes un-unexpectedness into consideration.

Chara didn’t crush him as hard as he could have.  in fact, had he done that we probably wouldn’t be talking about this because Pacioretty would have ended up just completely going over the boards into the bench.  so in this case, it’s actually BECAUSE Chara didn’t check him as hard as possible that he ended up trailing along the top of the boards and into the end of the glass.

Again, no way for you to prove any of that. Even if its true, its just as likely that it causes a different, possibly worse injury.  What if the throat was point of impact?  The “what if” game is funny like that. 

I think it needs to be understood that no matter how many rules you make, unless you completely take physical contact out of the sport there will be freak occurrences like this…“normal?” what is normal?...I don’t even think that type of check should be considered interference.

I guess that’s the real problem all rolled into one.  You see checking into the end of the glass and checking as the same thing.  I think players need to be more careful about hitting in certain situations.  As a fellow Wings fan, I find it hard to believe that you could look at something like what happened to Draper and think it was perfectly ok for Lemieux to make a hit in that situation.  Checking a guy who’s facing away from you and who’s three feet from the boards doesn’t always result in him flying into the boards…but when it does, its boarding, and when he gets hurt its a major.  When he breaks his neck…I dunno.

There’s a way to make hockey safer and keep it as a physical game…but its not going to happen without accountability.  To me, writing stuff like this off as “one of those things” is lazy.

Posted by dumbasrocks on 03/11/11 at 07:05 PM ET

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Dumbasrocks

What you don’t get is there is a trade-off between physical play and injuries such as the Pacioretty one.  If you don’t want any player to hit another in a situation where it might wind up with a similar result to the hit on Pacioretty, you lose a significant number of hits from the game.  This is a low probability situation from a relatively common type of hit.  All of these hits would have to be removed from the game to remove the potential of similar injuries.  Players who had their successes in their games due to hitting lose out.  They cannot play their game and they slip out of the NHL.

If we want to change the culture of players to prevent these injuries we lose a lot of the physical parts of the game.  Are you OK with that?  (You cannot answer that we can have both - you cant). 

I think the best we can do is reduce risk as much as possible with better equipment.  In this case, the start of the glass at the end of the bench was unsafe for this hit.  That needs to be redesigned somehow to prevent this from happening again.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 03/11/11 at 10:46 PM ET

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If you don’t want any player to hit another in a situation where it might wind up with a similar result to the hit on Pacioretty, you lose a significant number of hits from the game.

I would hope that the number of hits-into-the-edge-of-the-glass lost would be significant, somewhere near 100% would do nicely. 

All of these hits would have to be removed from the game to remove the potential of similar injuries.

Why is the “if you want x out of the game you have to ban all of y” still tolerated in legitimate discussion?  Over time, the league has acknowledged that checking a player who’s at a certain distance from the boards into the boards is illegal, thus we have boarding.  I wonder if at the time they came up with that rule there were idiots yelling, “well if you make a rule against THAT kind of hit, you have to take out ALL hitting”?

Players who had their successes in their games due to hitting lose out.

Again, what a silly all-or-nothing argument.  Punishing hits into stanchions (which are rare) will suddenly lead to an exodus of players from the league. Of course it will. 

If we want to change the culture of players to prevent these injuries we lose a lot of the physical parts of the game.  Are you OK with that?  (You cannot answer that we can have both - you cant).

Again, since most players seem to be able to complete their careers without ending those of others, I don’t think that punishing hits into stanchions will drastically alter the game. I am ok with losing all stanchion-hits though.

That needs to be redesigned somehow to prevent this from happening again.

I do agree that the setup there was strange (compared to Detroit’s), I don’t know if other rinks have the same thing, so I suppose some uniformity might be called for.

Posted by dumbasrocks on 03/11/11 at 11:34 PM ET

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Its not an issue of banning hits into stanchions (this is your word and not one I would use but I am accepting it).  How often do they occur?  To be honest I dont know how I would find another hit that wound up just like it ... ever.

If you ban hits into stanchions, effectively you have banned all hits near them because you never know exactly where a hit will wind up with the speed of the game.  You are creating “no hitting zones” on the ice.  That fundamentally changes the game.  Do we really want these changes?  Is the benefit worth change?  I doubt it.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 03/11/11 at 11:41 PM ET

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Seems to you might suspend Garry Bettman for for poor rink designs allowed first. Any High Stick is also reckless and irresponsible and dangerous but the you would seem to argue that if you are really really unlucky and your unintentional high stick takes out some guy’s eye you need special censure, compared to the average player who was more or less just lucky and created no real injury.

The high stick argument is one we have clear guidelines on.  If you high stick someone, you get 2 minutes or 4 minutes if they bleed.  Whether intentional or not.  Severe cases that are obviously deliberate and severe are already subject to supplemental discipline and in the case of the far extreme (baseball bat like swings), we see big suspensions for high sticking.  The difference in the extreme situation is that usually it’s called a match penalty on the ice for being so obviously an intent to injure.

I actually do think the best solution involves looking at ways to make those areas of the rink safer, but I’m not sure how to do that before the next time guys are skating hard by the end of the bench.

In the meantime, yes, effectively make it a no hit, or softer hit, zone by saying, if you hit someone’s head into that corner of the glass divider, whether you meant to or not, you’ll get 2 games.  If it’s obviously deliberate (like the Dale Hunter hit in the video I posted), you’ll be subject to more.

Then the responsibility is on the hitter in that particular area of the ice.  They could choose to risk it because these hits are rare to actually catch the guy in the head (last one I remember is Jack Johnson against Ryan Smyth in 2008), but I hope that the announcement of clear criteria and mandatory minimum outcomes would prompt players to throw cleaner hits or ease up when they’re in those couple of feet of the ice.

Yes, accidents happen in hockey…  Sometimes they’re devastating, but you can throw clean checks and have a fast exciting game without knocking players out.

I actually used to be happy to see guys get just rocked and KO’d on the ice.  Then we started learning about the long term effects of concussions, and I just can’t see how we can justify it.  Between the increased quality of the research, and seeing guys like Keith Primeau over the years, I’ll admit, I lost my ferocious edge for seeing extreme damage done to people’s heads.

Meanwhile, I don’t think this would be able to just stop hitting overall.  Hockey will always have hitting.  It’s unavoidable when you play hockey.  The more you play the more you realize it’s the natural outcome of competing for the puck at speed.  The difference is training people to do it in a way that minimizes the chance of players having brain damage.  And that means establishing clear criteria for punishment that can be objectively applied.  Such as, if contact is made directly to the opposing players head, at least one game.

Will it soften things up?  Probably.  Doesn’t mean the hockey will be worse, just different.  And we won’t have to treat the players like disposable toys we smash against a rock until the pieces pop off.  I think the Scott Stevens era is over anyways.  Let’s give it a graceful retirement and move on to the next evolution of the game.

Posted by HitokiriEric from Ann Arbor, MI on 03/12/11 at 05:02 AM ET

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Guess they happen at least twice a season…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7tv-C0HVIA

Luckily this one is lower speed, and the hit gets rid of most of Doughty’s forward momentum just before, and then Doughty’s head comes around to smack into it without as much force.

Something tells me we’ll all be a bit more aware of these after the Chara/Pacioretty hit…  I’ve been trying to think back to how many of these hits I can remember seeing, and I can think of a lot of them, but I don’t remember how many of them involve the head and neck instead of the shoulders, arms, or chest.

Maybe in a year or two we’ll have some data to track how much it’s happened over a little bit of time.

The league could save some face and look very professional by coming out, saying they don’t want to make a knee-jerk reaction to this injury, but admit it’s altered our awareness of the potential problem and they’ll go back to the archives, research it and publish the data before instituting a policy change.

Posted by HitokiriEric from Ann Arbor, MI on 03/12/11 at 05:29 AM ET

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imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

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