Kukla's Korner

The Upper Canadien

Final thoughts on Chara; Habs as a team

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.

Filed in: | The Upper Canadien | Permalink
 

Comments

Steve Strowbridge's avatar

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.

This is not an appropriate analogy. It would be more like playing bumper cars. Everyone in a bumper car knows and expects they can get hurt if they are all driving around smacking into each other. Pacioretty was not exactly the “pedestrian” you describe.

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.

If Chara knew where the pole is, wouldn’t Pacioretty? It was in his stadium.

Just to be clear, I feel like Chara should have been suspended too. I am not a Boston fan with the blinders on.

Posted by Steve Strowbridge from St. John's, NL, CA on 03/13/11 at 10:13 PM ET

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Man, did you ever nail it. I agree 1000%. Been saying the same thing for a week now. Keep it up.

Posted by Geoff from Montreal on 03/13/11 at 10:37 PM ET

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Steve - thank you for your thoughts. The difference between what Chara says and what happened is that Max Pacioretty was STEERED into the stanchion. When a guy 6’9” (OFF skates) and 260 pounds has his arm to your head, you go where he makes you go. Even if Max had been aware of the stanchion, he was helpless to avoid it.

This article is really beautifully stated. Yes, he needed to be suspended. The NHL thinks differently. The NHL has to change. Here’s hoping something will. I don’t want to see a death on the ice - but I thought I had, last week. Still gives me chills.

Posted by Lissa from Montreal on 03/13/11 at 10:48 PM ET

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Wahhhhhhhhhhhhhh.  Steve had it right above. You get paid the cash to take the risks.  I think he should have got a game or two but I do not think there was intent.

Posted by Tikan on 03/13/11 at 11:51 PM ET

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Zdeno Chara has been playing hockey for years. He knows where the bench is. He knows where the stanchion is.

Then how do you account for the fact that Drew Doughty, after being driven into the stanchion in a similar play said that he did NOT know how close he was to the stanchion before he was hit?

People pull out this stupidity that a pro player ALWAYS knows EXACTLY where he is on the ice ALL the time when that is PATENTLY not true!

How many times have you seen a goalie let in a show because he wasn’t positioned correctly in front of the net?  Are you suggesting these goalies know where they are and are letting in goals on purpose?  Because if a professional hockey player knows where he is at all times, yet the goalie lets in a goal like that then he has to have done it knowingly, no?

That argument simply does not hold water.

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.

No, you’re right.  It isn’t just, but guess what?  It’s not a just world.  To use your WILDLY inappropriate car accident scenario, is it just that someone who kills another person while driving only gets manslaughter and serves a couple years while the other person is dead? 

Zdeno Chara did the EXACT same thing that has been done HUNDREDS of times with no ill effects.  CBC had a montage of a couple DOZEN hits from the last couple years that were exactly the same as Chara’s and none of those guys were suspended, so why should Chara have been?  You have to punish the PLAY, not the RESULT.  It wouldn’t be just for Chara to be punished for a hockey play any more than it is just for Pacioretty to be injured because of a freak play.

If you suspend Chara for a generic interference penalty then you have to suspend any player who takes a slap shot that hits a defender in the face.

End of story.

Posted by Garth on 03/14/11 at 12:02 AM ET

Da lil Guy's avatar

I guess when you were watching Mario Lemieux, you didn’t see Ulf Samuelsson?

...or McSorley (or even Messier) skating with Gretzky?

If the name Scott Steven’s doesn’t ring a bell, I invite you to visit the hockey hall of fame - or ask one of the many players who have had their bell rung.

If you want to make a comparison to driving a car, you should try something more apt.

Posted by Da lil Guy from Guelph, Ontario on 03/14/11 at 12:51 AM ET

Chris from NOHS's avatar

Wow, Da lil guy just said everything that I wanted say, only in a much shorter and more concise way. 

It sucks that he got hurt. But you couldn’t sound any more whiny about it, wishing of days of yore when those days weren’t actually different at all.  It just happened to your player this time, so you whine.

Posted by Chris from NOHS from Columbus, OH/Grand Rapids, MI on 03/14/11 at 01:05 AM ET

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This is probably the best commentary that I’ve seen in print so far on the subject and it jives exactly with my thoughts.

Steve:
Credit where it’s due.  Yes you’re dead on with the analogy not being perfect.  But you know what, I like your analogy more than you know.  If you play bumper cars, yes you know there is a chance of risk and a chance of pain (even injury) but you expect that hit to come from the behind from the side or from the front in the form of a bumper hitting a bumper, what you do NOT expect is someone to reach out with the a pole (or their arm) and drive you headfirst into your steering wheel (or a stanchion).

At best, it’s an extremely reckless play and at worst… well we don’t really need to go there, do we?

And yes I agree, if Chara knows where he is, then Pacioretty should’ve known exactly where he was as well.  But again, I don’t agree or accept that because I’m skating as fast and as hard as I can within the ice surface, that I should simply accept that due to my speed, I will be forced into a situation where I will be rammed headfirst into a stanchion with no chance to protect myself.

What you’re basically saying is, don’t ever skate with your back to your opponent while you’re 3 feet away from the boards because you should KNOW where you are and that position is very dangerous.  So basically, boarding is now your fault because you know where you are.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not in hysterics and I’m not calling for an end of violence in hockey as we know it.  I enjoy a hard-hitting game and I love fights breaking out as much as the next person but basics are basics, if you are reckless you should pay.  I don’t care if you play for the Bruins, the Caps, the Devils or the Habs.

This is not a Habs vs. Bruins issue.  This is quite simply an issue of players not having to think or worry that they might die or get paralyzed while they play their sport.  And at the very least of it, to know that if a situation occurs in which that may have been possible then be rest assured that your league would not condone that action.  People would get punished and steps taken to remedy the problem in the best way possible.

We as humans should strive to evolve not regress!

Posted by Tareq on 03/14/11 at 01:35 AM ET

Steve Strowbridge's avatar

What you’re basically saying is, don’t ever skate with your back to your opponent while you’re 3 feet away from the boards because you should KNOW where you are and that position is very dangerous.  So basically, boarding is now your fault because you know where you are.

No, that is not what I’m saying. I was replying to the author of this post. His stance was that Chara knew where he was but he didn’t want to acknowledge that Pacioretty did also. That was the only point I was trying to make.

I think hockey needs to make a lot of changes in regards to player safety and with respect for other players. I even feel like Chara should have been suspended. Not for the hit, but for the tragic outcome of it. Unfortunately, the rules in place right now and at the time of the hit, allow for interpretation of intent.

Posted by Steve Strowbridge from St. John's, NL, CA on 03/14/11 at 01:52 AM ET

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Well with all due respect, I think I showed why it’s inconsequential to say that Pacioretty knew where he was.  He was within the playing surface and that’s all that matters.  As being hit 3 feet away from the boards is boarding and a penalty, what I’m advocating is that what Chara did should be a penalty (it was but for interference) and as such be suspendable.  Which I realize that you concur with.

So I guess to reiterate, of course you’ll have the pro-Habs fans pushing for the figurative lynching of Chara and that’s understandable to a degree and wrong in every aspect!  However, the debate that we’re trying to stir up and conjure is that, enough with the idiot plays.  Yes, he may have not meant it (I personally believe he did, but that’s beside’s the point).  What we’re trying to say is that a professional sports league would stand up and say, Hey, that’s not right and we don’t accept that in our game.

So let’s fix it.  Deep down, I think that’s what most people want just as long as you’re a HOCKEY fan (which is what the author of this post was trying to portray).

Appreciate your feedback because debate and the exchange of ideas is ALWAYS good!  grin

Posted by Tareq on 03/14/11 at 02:11 AM ET

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If Chara should be suspended then the Habs and the NHL should be fined for providing an unsafe work environment.  They should also be forced to suspend all games until they address the padding at the benches thoughout the league .  See how out of hand this can get?  If that play took place on the opposite side of the rink Chara gets an interference penalty, at the most.  Nothing more, no police investigation, no debate.  I feel it was simply an accident.  Just the same as two playing not seeing each other and colliding or a puck ramping up a stick and cutting someone.

Posted by Steve on 03/14/11 at 09:31 AM ET

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Seriously, Montreal fans…

Were you guys up in arms when Eric Lindros was out on the ice with his tongue hanging out?

When Ovechkin was dragging knees and running guys late?

When Lemieux smashed Draper into the boards?

When Malarchuk almost died?

When Modano had a tendon severed with a skate?

When Cooke headshotted his 415th target?

When Probert was diagnosed with CPE post-mortem?

When any of the hundreds of players over the years have had arms and legs broken or joints sprained from two-handers?

When Kronwall crushed Havlat?

When Campbell crushed Umberger?

Stevens crushing Kozlov?

When any of a dozen coaches over the years have sent out goons in the last minute of a game expressly to rough up opponents?

When BRYAN MARCHMENT was playing in Montreal being the same dirty player he always was?

Of course you weren’t.

So, really, just stop it.  Just because one of your players has been blasted in a public way, try and not act like this is the first time you’ve ever seen such violence out on the ice and react with this faux outrage.

You may, MAY be able to eventually make a substantive case that the Chara hit was dirty.  I highly doubt it, but you never know.

This whole ‘taking your fandom and going home’ thing just makes you guys look like a bunch of spoilsports with the hockey perspective of a flea, though.  If you watching or not watching the NHL hangs on whether or not Chara got a 2 or 3 game suspension for an at-wrost borderline hit that just ended up with an awful outcome, just go away already.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 03/14/11 at 10:17 AM ET

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Great article!!!!! This is what I have been saying since the incident. Intent is not the issue. Being reckless is. It makes no sense that the person that has the brain injury has to assume the only penalty for the play while the protagonist goes free. 5 minutes and a game misconduct is does not equate for all the pain and psychological agony Max has to go through.

Posted by Frank from Chicago on 03/14/11 at 10:50 AM ET

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Agree or disagree, the discussion is great. For me, this has nothing to do with a particular hit. I was sickened by Cooke on Savard. I was sickened by Lemieux on Draper. And I am sicked by Chara on Pacioretty. What this does concern, however, is a line in the sand. We can either continue to tolerate this as hockey fans, or say enough is enough and start drawing attention to the issue. As Malcolm Gladwell would say, there’s going to be a tipping point if brain injuries are ever dealt with. I genuinely hope that this is that tipping point.

Posted by The Upper Canadien from Toronto on 03/14/11 at 01:43 PM ET

wolverine's avatar

I can’t believe what I’m reading.  Where to start?  It wasn’t a head shot…Charra was cutting the player off, happens all the time - called rubbing a guy out.  Maybe we should just engulf the whole ice surface in glass, including the player benches. I’m serious.  There was a time in hockey when there was no glass anywhere on the boards.  We progress out of necessity.  When that Georgian luger died tragically at the Olympics, the first thing everyone complained about was that pole that was 3 feet from the track.  Why put it there?  Same thing goes for the stanchion and glass between the benches.  It’s a non story if not for that ill advised and poorly placed turnbuckle.  I’m not a fan of Boston or Montreal.  I’m a fan of hockey and if you think what Charra did resembles the UFC, you’re mistaken.  An unfortunate accident in this case, nothing more and nothing less.

Posted by wolverine on 03/14/11 at 02:35 PM ET

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About The Upper Canadien

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.

Questions or comments? theuppercanadien@kuklaskorner.com