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Zdeno Chara will not be suspended for hit on Max Pacioretty

March 9, 2011

It was just announced that Zdeno Chara won’t be suspended or fined by the NHL for his hit on Max Pacioretty. The play resulted in a severe concussion and broken vertebrae for Pacioretty. The play has been controversial with opinions spanning from clean to dirty, from no suspension to long-term suspension, from incidental contact to premeditated by Chara.

It’s been all but announced that Pacioretty is done for the year. His concussion is probably akin to Marc Savard‘s concussion, which the Bruins pivot is still recovering from. Throw in Patches breaking his C4 and C5 vertebrae, and you have a player who may never play hockey again. The injury is strikingly similar to Steve Moore’s injury, which was a concussion and three broken vertebrae in his neck. Moore never played hockey again and has had his life forever altered. Hopefully Pacioretty doesn’t tread the path that Moore is on and recovers fully from the injury.

Ultimately, Chara’s clean record and reputation kept him from being suspended. Personally, I feel that he did know the stanchion was there but pursued the puck aggressively and tried to edge Pacioretty off and win the puck. I don’t think that Chara expected Pacioretty to go full out for the puck, he probably just wanted Pacioretty to B-line away from the boards. Also, if Chara realized that Johnny Boychuk was already back and clearly going to win the puck, he would have let up. All of these are speculative observations completed in hindsight.

But what I can say is that this play happens all the time, usually but not always without injury. It’s a part of the game and is often used as leverage in puck races along the boards. Milan Lucic did it just a week ago, but the guy popped right up. The turnbuckle is essentially used as a game of chicken. Are you going to keep on this line knowing that a metal post is a few feet away or will you veer off and lose the puck battle? This is one of those hits that people will never agree on, it’s not black and white. Some will construe the previous history between the two as motivation for Chara but we can never know for sure. This incident will always be clouded in uncertainty.

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