Tag Archives: Marty McSorley

Chara not suspended after Pacioretty breaks neck

9 Mar

Montreal Canadiens’ Max Pacioretty suffered a broken neck and concussion after having his head run into the stanchion (the bar between the bench and the glass) by the Boston Bruins’ Zdeno Chara during the second period of Tuesday’s game in Montreal. Chara received a five-minute major and a game misconduct.

Bruins captain Zdeno Chara wasn't suspended for his hit on Pacioretty/ photo courtesy of Dan4th Nicholas

On Wednesday, the NHL ruled that despite the injury, Chara would receive no further punishment.

“After a thorough review of the video I can find no basis to impose supplemental discipline,” said Mike Murphy, NHL Senior V.P. of Hockey Operations in a statement. “This hit resulted from a play that evolved and then happened very quickly — with both players skating in the same direction and with Chara attempting to angle his opponent into the boards.”

Murphy said that when making their decision, they considered that Chara “had not been involved in a supplemental discipline incident during his 13-year NHL career.”

Montreal was leading 4-0 when Chara made the hit. In the previous match-up (Feb. 9) between Boston and Montreal, the teams combined for 182 penalty minutes. Another game (Jan. 8.) ended in a skirmish after Pacioretty shoved Chara after scoring the game-winning goal in OT.

According to the NHL rulebook, an illegal check to the head is “a lateral or blind side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principal point of contact is not permitted”. In regards to boarding, “the onus is on the player applying the check to ensure his opponent is not in a vulnerable position and if so, he must avoid the contact”.

If the onus is on the player to avoid injuring an opponent in a vulnerable position, how is Chara not responsible for Pacioretty’s injury?  Chara admitted that he knew how close they were to the bench when he made the hit. Under NHL rules, it’s his responsibility to know how dangerous a hit into the stanchion could be, and should have avoided it.

The league’s decision is interesting, but unsurprising. This season, many players – including many of the leagues’ stars – have suffered concussions or similar injuries as the result of hits to the head.

Sidney Crosby has been out since January 6 with concussion-like symptoms. / Dan4th Nicholas

Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby has missed over 25 games because of a concussion, which has been attributed to two illegal hits made in separate games. The first hit wasn’t ruled a penalty, and the second only garnered a two-minute minor. Neither player who hit Crosby’s head received suspensions or fines by the league. It’s unlikely that Crosby will return this season. Other elite players like Pat LaFontaine and Eric Lindros had their careers shortened due to dangerous hits to the head.

The two most notorious moments in recent memory are Todd Bertuzzi’s suckerpunch from behind on Steve Moore and Marty McSorley’s piñata swing on Donald Brashear. Bertuzzi – whose attack was in retaliation for a headshot Moore took on teammate Markus Naslund earlier in the season – was suspended indefinitely (although due to the 2004-05 lockout, he ended up missing only 20 games), and McSorley was suspended for a full year, and never played another NHL game.

This season, the NHL implemented a new rule regarding illegal checks to the head, and although they’ve handed out 22 head-shot related suspensions this season, only two of them have been for more than six games. Both instances were for New York Islanders’ winger Trevor Gillies, who received his second suspension (10 games) in his first game back after serving a nine-game suspension.

The NHL has a major problem. Rule 48 has done nothing to deter hits to the head, because the league rarely enforces its new rule, and refuses to adequately punish guilty players when it does.

Chara says he didn’t intentionally slam Pacioretty into the stanchion. But that doesn’t matter. He put him in a dangerous situation that resulted in a serious injury, and should have been punished for it.