The Naked NHLer’s Controversy

You may remember him as the Naked NHLer.  Now, he’s the MOST WANTED man in Montreal…and not in a good way.

On March 8th, a hit on Montreal Canadiens Max Pacioretty developed into what is now becoming the biggest controversy of the season.  For Zdeno Chara, the hit was legal…BUT the way it played out was very unfortunate. 

Because this was a legal hit, the NHL did not suspend Chara, even though Pacioretty suffered a severe concussion and a non-displaced fracture to the fourth cervical vertebra in his neck.  What does this mean for Pacioretty?  Time will tell.  He’s still in the hospital.

Here is a video of the hit:

The aftermath of the NHL deeming Chara’s hit a ‘legal’ hit? 

Air Canada is threatening to withdraw NHL sponsorship…if the NHL doesn’t immediately crack down on violent headshots.  [Sound familiar to this blog?]

A police investigation has begun in Montreal looking into the ‘hit’ to see if Chara should be held criminally responsible.

Politicians are looking for their next Montreal vote by pushing bills through to reduce concussions and head injuries in amateur sports.

“I feel bad about what happened,” Chara said. “I was trying to make a strong hockey play and play hard and it’s very unfortunate, like I said, that a player got hurt and had to leave the game.”  MORE

@NHLBruins tweeted “Chara said you feel bad when a fellow player gets severely hurt, and also added,”I know, deep down, I did not do it intentionally…”

While Montreal is out to villify Chara, the fact remains…there was no intent to severely injure the opponent.  If there had been intent, the NHL’s ruling would have been very different.

This was just an unfortunate result to a clean hit. 

Moving forward, the NHL should move to rule that no hits can occur along the benches against an opponent.  That area is a very scary area to throw your weight around into an opponent. 

Just this season, Jamie Langenbrunner was injured right as an opponent threw him into the side of the benches.  Ironically, he re-injured that same injury again a few weeks later right in front of the benches again. 

In a perfect world, if that hit had not occurred along the benches, Pacioretty would not have been hurt like that.  Chara did not time his hit to force Pacioretty’s head into the open space along the bench and then into the glass partition separating the benches.  No one plans to do something like that.  It happened in less than a second.  No one can execute an intentional hit like that.

If the bench area were to be deemed a NO HIT zone, then it could save players from further unfortunate accidents.  The health and safety of the players are one of the most important factors in this game. 

Sure, there are debates on whether the equipment a player is wearing will help shield them from concussions, etc.  But which equipment is the right one to choose?  And do they really work? Easton Hockey has a helmet out now that specifically aids against concussions.  But in Pacioretty’s case…no equipment safeguard could have protected him because of the way the benches were laid out. 

For Max Pacioretty, we can only pray that he’ll heal quickly and return to the game soon. 

For the NHL, it’s obvious now that they have to take some sort of action.  Who would have seen this injury coming?  No one.  But it takes a severe injury like to this to create change.  NO HITS along the benches gets my vote. 

Disciplining Chara as a result of Montreal’s outcry?  I leave that for everyone else to decide.  There’s Montreal’s outcry for justice, and then there’s the other 29 teams and their fans that think…it was just a very unfortunate result to a legal hit.

Here are the current NHL rules on headshots:

In order for Montreal to call the hit an illegal hit, the NHL rule would need to be changed to disallow hits in front of the benches.  The way the hit was performed by Chara does not fit into any of the categories listed in the video.  If it was illegal to perform hits in front of the benches, then I would have expected a severe suspension and fine.  

This season, the NHL has been cracking down on headshots left and right.  After the outcry from fans, media, etc. last season, the NHL created new rules.  Players that are not typical dirty players have been suspended left and right this season due to blindside hits to the head, and other illegal hits to the head. 

Chara may have OWNED the speedo before BizNasty did.

This incident only shows that further rules need to be added to the list of what is illegal.  No one in the NHL would have ever predicted something like this would happen.  That’s why hits in front of the benches should be illegal.  This was a clean hit gone bad…very bad.

I can see both sides of the fence here with Chara and Pacioretty.  I feel bad for both.  No one ever wants to hurt someone that badly in a split second like that (especially if it was not their intent to harm).  No one ever wants to see someone hurt the way Pacioretty was hurt. 

If Chara had no remorse for his actions, then Montreal would be justified in villifying the giant naked NHLer.  But the thing is…you can tell this is eating him up inside.  His thoughts are not on himself and his future.  It’s on that guy he put in the hospital.  You know he’s replaying that incident in his mind over and over again and how he could have avoided it altogether. 

If he were a true villain…he wouldn’t have given a damn about Pacioretty being put into the hospital.  He would have just put another notch onto his victory belt of opponents he had taken out of the game. 

But apparently, Chara does care.  If he wants to start pushing this situation in the right direction, he should head to the hospital and apologize to Pacioretty.  After that, he’s going to need to apologize to Montreal and their fans.  Why?  Because his actions didn’t just hurt Pacioretty…his actions hurt an entire team and their fans.  They are feeling that hit just as badly as Pacioretty felt it.

You have to take ownership of your actions, even if it was just an accident. 

If the NHL wants to rectify things with Montreal, they’ll create a new rule as an aftermath to this situation.  They can’t suspend Chara after they’ve created a new rule (laws don’t work that way).  But a new rule could help save other players from future similar incidents.

To Pacioretty…here’s best wishes to a speedy recovery.

****

Now, I’ve been saying this about Milan Lucic…problem child.  This article from BruinsBlog just proves my point even further.  He’s just not the sharpest tool in the shed…Lucic tries to fight Pouliot after Pacioretty incident

Just poor decision making on his part.

The Boston/Montreal rivalry is going to be even more vicious than ever from here on out.  *Please don’t let them meet in the playoffs*

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