Thursday 27 Oct 2016

The Chara Incident
Bob Stark

"As the puck went by, obviously I was riding him out and it was veryunfortunate that at the same time when I pushed him a little bit, he kind of leaned and jumped a little bit and just hit the glass extension. Obviously it wasn't my intention to push him into the partition. Things happen fast. That's not my style. I play hard, physical, but I never try to hurt someone." Zedano Chara, Boston Bruins

"I could not find any evidence to suggest that, beyond this being a correct call for interference, that Chara targeted the head of his opponent, left his feet or delivered the check in any other manner that could be deemed to be dangerous. This was a hockey play that resulted in an injury because of the player colliding with the stanchion and then the ice surface. In reviewing this play, I also took into consideration that Chara has not been involved in a supplemental discipline incident during his 13-year NHL career." Mike Murphy, NHL Vice-President of hockey operations.

"The truth does not cease to exist because it is ignored." Aldous Huxley

Here we go again folks! Some of my readers have wondered when I might speak about head hits, the brawl on the Island, Mario's opinions, Don Cherry, “Mad Mike” Milbury, the old guard, the code and everything related to the prevalence of concussions and other severe injuries that are plaguing the game we Canadians love and call our own.

If it indeed be our game, then we have the responsibility to speak out. Silence is no longer an option. Should my 'blog' get lost in the plethora of scribbles in Blog-ville, so-be-it!! Silence in even a mad-chattering, tweeting, texting world, is no longer an option.

It's time to get on the ole Clobber Soap Box and sputter. Get our your tomatoes ready as I sharpen my pen. If you truly believe that this latest ice hockey incident - Chara's hit on Pacioretty last night, resulting with the latter hospitalized with a broken back and obvious concussion - was simply a hockey play that went wrong because of where it happened on the ice, you'll have lots of company. You'll be cheeping like the Neanderthal Apes at the NHL and on HNIC.

It is quite possible that I, who will disagree profoundly with that opinion, may stand alone in the monkey tree. Won't be the first time I'll be scratching my monkey head alone. First of all, I would agree the stanchions in the Bell Centre are dangerous. They may also not even be necessary. The fact that there is a glass partition between the benches of the combatants probably says more about the mental state of the game and the players who play it than anything else!

In Roman times they separated the Christians from the Lions for obvious reason. They didn't want the Christians converting the Lions into pacifist lambs or turn them against the powers-that-bean. Was it a "hockey play"? Indeed it was, if you look at the first part of the play which was appropriately called "interference".

Chara was given a game misconduct, allegedly for more than the interference on the play; that is, the fact he injured the player as a result of the hit. So, you get a misconduct, under the NHL rules, for injuring a player, but no suspension by the league. Curious logic there Bettman.

In the first instance, it would appear that the 'guilty' player has done something wrong, severely wrong. It is probably true that if the resulting hit into the boards had happened anywhere else on the ice, no one would be talking about all this. Alas, does that lead one to conclude that it's all the fault of the placement of the stanchion?

If I ram your car from behind into a post and cause injury, do we conclude "geez; maybe we should have moved that post"? I want to go back a few weeks and use another hit to illustrate my bottom-line position on all this.

In a game against Anaheim, Canuck defenceman Dan Hamhuis, behind the goal-line, made a clearing pass up along the boards. Coming from behind him was Duck player Ryan Getzlaf who, in "finishing his check", crushed Hamhuis into the boards, with Dan's head hitting the glass, getting a concussion and thus missing several games.

Most pundits agreed  it was not a dirty hit; Chara didn't leave his feet. Hamhuis knew he was coming. Dan had put himself in a vulnerable position. All the usual 'excuses' provided by players, pundits and league officials.

Even Dan agreed with that assessment. There was also the usual Chara-like familiar refrain from all that there was no intent to injure. Case closed.

Except, I was thrilled when Hamhuis opined, as a closing thought, that maybe given the time-frame and so forth and the fact Getzlaf knew Dan was vulnerable, he could have decided not to proceed with the hit. Exacto mundo, I watched the replay, of the Chara incident, several times.

Let's review it by what was said above. Chara said, "When I pushed him a little bit, he kind of leaned and jumped a little bit and just hit the glass extension. Obviously it wasn't my intention to push him into the partition."

Does anyone remember Ottawa's Carkner flicking blood at the Rangers' bench. In post-game interviews, he said he couldn't remember doing that. Really? What does that say about a player's mentality while in action and his memory afterwards of any such plays?

The Carkner interview chilled me to the bone. Was it temporary insanity? Too much Gatorade? Who knows, certainly not me.

First, Chara, you're a giant battling a smurf. You did not push him "a little bit." Moreover, because of your push, Pacioretty did not lean or jump "a little bit" and "just hit the glass extension". The push was significant enough to make him lose control; he had nothing to do with where he was headed and had no time to either lean or jump unless in some last ditch effort to avoid collision with the stanchion.

Carey Price said after the game that every player knows exactly where they are on the ice at all times and basically don't let anyone tell you different. I would suggest certainly not a 13 year pro and who is no stranger to the building and the stanchions therein. The league should have at the very least asked  Chara to spend some of his millions that he makes playing the game for some geography lessons!

Even if I acknowledge the size difference and the obvious difficulty it can be to conclude any malicious intent on the part of a 7 foot guy, it appeared to me Chara raised his arm, his elbow, and, more so, seeing the stanchion drove Mr. Pacioretty into it. Like Getzlaf, he could have, should have let up. He didn't.

The response, by the league, is not even worth dissecting. It's the same old apologetic clap-trap. That said, the most disturbing point made by Murphy is that  Chara has no previous suspendible transgressions. Once more the league protects its stars, but usually over-acting to transgressions by already marked men.

If you're a fourth-line goonie, watch your step; you'll have the book thrown at you. If you're a star defence-man for the Boston Bruins you get a free ride. There has been accusations in the past, unsubstantiated I must add, that the Bruins owner has a special place at the NHL table, with Betty and the boys. Curious.

In the end, Mr. Chara was responsible for his actions, whatever his intent. I would suspectthere was not one person watching that game who didn't at least think momentarily that Pacioretty was dead. In essence, in its non-suspension ruling, the NHL has sanctioned one of its players being severely injured due to an unfortunate "hockey play."

I want to hear what Jeremy Ronick says about all this. He, like my bro, Stomper, have it right; have had it right for many years. The NHL will continue to skate around, with its head office up its ass, until someone dies on the ice.

Last night, a death seemed a distinct possibility. I seriously do not understand why the NHL did not give Chara at least a 1 or 2 game suspension. That may not have appeased fanatical Montreal fans, or others, but at least Chara would not have been given a free pass. I suspect, even hope, that somewhere inside the man Chara believes that as well.

Keep your head up....

Bob Stark is a musician, poet, philosopher and couch potato. He spends his days, as did Jean-Paul Sarte and Albert Camus, pouring lattes and other adult beverages into a recycled mug, bearing a long and winding crack. He discusses, with much insight and passion, the existentialist and phenomenological ontology of the Vancouver 'Canucks,' a hockey team, "Archie" comic books and high school reunions. In other words, Bob Stark is a retired public servant living the good life on the wrong coast of Canada.

More by Bob Stark:
Tell a Friend

Click above to tell a friend about this article.

Please report typos or corrections
to the editor