The Upper Canadien
by The Upper Canadien on 03/13/11 at 10:33 PM ET
So zero games for Zdeno Chara. Almost a week later and the controversy continues. You may have noticed that I haven’t chimed in much on this controversy. There’s a reason for that. For the first time in years, I’m actually questioning my place as a hockey fan.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love hockey. I love the Canadiens. What I don’t love is watching people get their heads beaten in. If I wanted violence, I’d watch UFC.
What I want is hockey.
Now, I didn’t grow up in the 1970s, so I didn’t see Lafleur in his prime, or Jean Beliveau at the end. But I saw the grace of Mario Lemieux in 1992, Wayne Gretzky in the late 80’s, Brett Hull and his wicked slapper (Mike Cammalleri reminds me so much of Hull, from time to time). And you know what? I loved it. I don’t love today’s NHL. Because, in the last decade, I’ve seen a lot of hurt.
I’ve seen Trent McLeary almost die from a slapshot to the throat. I’ve seen Donald Audette almost lose an arm. McSorley-Brashear. Bertuzzi-Moore. And the overriding theme? Lots of pain, not a lot of punishment. Now, sure, McLeary and Audette were accidents, no question. But anyone who tells me it is just that Bertuzzi continues to make millions while Steve Moore continues to suffer massive headaches and neck problems is kidding themselves. Matt Cooke makes me sick.
And you know what? Zdeno Chara didn’t just deserve to be suspended, he needed to be.
Now, he wasn’t, we all know that. And anger has ensued, perhaps that’s a good thing. What makes me happy is the public discourse on the issue, because maybe, finally, this will get dealt with.
Here’s my reasoning: I drive my car often. Occasionally, I speed. If I hit a pedestrian while speeding, I didn’t mean to. And I would feel horrible. But I’ve hit them, and they’re hurt, possibly dead. I’m responsible. I go to court, I’m convicted, I probably go to jail. That’s what I happens when I speed and there’s an accident: I’m held responsible.
Consider high sticking. If I am playing hockey, and my stick clips someone’s face as I skate by, I get a two minute penalty. Maybe four. Did I intend to hit them with my stick? No. But that’s the rule. I am accountable for the stick at all times, and if I hit someone - I am responsible for my actions.
So why any different with headshots? What is so incredibly difficult about this? If I injure someone, accidentally or not, it’s my fault. Zdeno Chara has been playing hockey for years. He knows where the bench is. He knows where the stanchion is. My belief? He knew what he was doing, and he pushed Max Pacioretty into that pole on purpose. But even if he didn’t, he should have known it was there, and he should have let up.
Bottom line: he should have been held responsible.
My other opinion on all this? Max Pacioretty doesn’t have a head injury.
He has a brain injury.
So does Sidney Crosby. So does David Perron. So does Marc Savard. The bloggers, media and fans of the world need to start referring to concussions as what they are. Brain injury sounds a lot more serious than head injury. Maybe changing the terminology will help people take the injuries more seriously.
All in all, yes these guys make a lot of money. But this isn’t funny or for the faint of heart. Kids are playing this game, and they’re going to start getting really, really hurt, if it isn’t already happening now. Why? Kids emulate their heroes. Chara is one of them. That’s a bad mix. I have very young relatives playing hockey, and I see and hear how rough the game is getting for children. How far are we going to let this go?
So, the NHL needs to deal with this. They’re the hallmark of the sport, and it’s their responsibility to start the change. Top down. Trickle down. Whatever you want to call it. Suspend people. Changes the rules. I don’t care. All these injuries, all the fear every fan feels when they see someone injured as badly as Max Pacioretty, that isn’t hockey. It’s happening far, far too often. If this isn’t dealt with, and these situations repeat themselves, they are going to lose a hockey fan. And I’m willing to bet they’ll lose a lot more as well.
Habs as a team
A few quick Habs thoughts for Sunday night. The Canadiens looked very, very good against Pittsburgh yesterday in their 3-0 win. Rope-a-dope hockey. They’re really good at it. They’ve got a shot at finishing top four, and they have won six of seven. They play a mean, mean team game. Can they do it? The last few weeks of the season aren’t an easy stretch, but they have a chance. Circle March 24th on your calendar. Habs-Bruins season series closer. It will be a doozy.
Scott Gomez seems to be coming around. He played one of his better games of the year yesterday. Same goes for Mike Cammalleri. The Canadiens razor-thin defence continues to chug along. Yannick Weber looked great. And Carey Price. How is this guy not getting more Hart Trophy discussion? If it wasn’t for him, the Canadiens would be out of a playoff spot right now. He’s been lights out good of late.
It’s a big week, as they charge on minus Markov-Spacek-Gorges-Sopel-Pacioretty. Can Benoit Pouliot take Pacioretty’s place on the top line? Can the defence hold it together long enough for the team to secure good playoff positioning? Nothing is ever dull in Habsland, and this week should be as entertaining as any.
Oh, and I’m sure we’ll hear more on the Pacioretty situation with the GM meetings taking place over the next few days.
Until then, help make the change: brain injury.
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The Upper Canadien is your one stop shop for all things Montreal Canadiens. Since the summer of 2010, I've been providing Habs related news, notes, and most importantly, opinions. As a blogger, I don't believe it's my job to report the news, it's my privilege to comment on it. You may disagree with what I suggest. In fact, you most likely will. But that's the great part about blogging: it spurs opinion, comment and engages all involved. I've really enjoyed all the debate and commentary from readers thus far and I encourage everyone to respond with ideas on lineups, trades, logos, sweaters, mascots, whatever. The Upper Canadien is a conversation for all hockey fanatics.
I've come to Kukla's Korner with four years of campus radio and three years of sportswriting from my time at Mount Allison University on Canada's East coast. Not only do I not have any professional journalistic training, after five years in the corporate world, I've spent much of the past two years completing an MBA. Business by day, hockey by night, I'm a Canadiens fan through and through. I hope you enjoy reading as much as I do writing.
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