Monday 05 Dec 2016

Chara Incident
Bob Stark

I love them so much I still wear their shorts.

Don Cherry, on the Boston Bruins

As you may know, Zdeno Chara plays for the Boston Bruins.

Hey! Just stating the facts! Briefly, in point form, below, is Cherry's argument...er... opinion, cause you never really can argue or debate him, especially if you're a lawyer, a doctor, or someone who's never played the game; please don't even be in his presence if you're a commie pinko vegetarian, non-dairy or otherwise!

Only Don knows; he's kinda HNIC's version of Kreskin, although tonight, with his big Irish hat on, he sort of looked like Waldo the Talking Dog straight to the HNIC set after a weekend blow-out circus at Charlie Sheen's house.

Zdeno has never been suspended. At his size, if he wanted to hurt someone he could do it in a heartbeat and likely kill the guy.  As Vancouver Canuck star Henrik Sedin pointed out, with a complete absolution by the NHL VP of Hockey Operations, Michael Jesus-Murphy, next time Zdeno drives someone's head into the boards, he'll still have no record of suspension..... and that will play in his favour again.

The league got it right - no suspension or fine, by the way - cause you either give him 20 games or nothing at all. No rationale provided for that Cherry-picking opinion. I don't see any 'rules' written that confirm that penalty spectrum. Other guys have gotten one, two, three... etc.. game suspensions. Alas, for Chara, it's all or nothing at all. Ridiculous.

He - meaning Mr. Chara - was just taking Pacioretty out of the play. Yep. He was and thrusting and crushing the poor bugger's head against the boards. Please note I said 'boards' and not 'stanchion' because given the logic expressed by many of the league's defenders, Chara, contrary to most hockey player's expressed opinions on the incident, didn't know, or wasn't aware, that the stanchion was forthcoming. He's already interfered with the guy, why not finish the check and completely annihilate him from the night's action.

It's a hockey play. We certainly wouldn't want to eliminate hitting from the game now would we? No, we wouldn't. Just head hits, intended or not.

Cherry never once expressed any opinion on whether or not he thought Chara was in a position, physically or mentally, to let up, given the circumstances.

To me it is fairly clear from the replay that Chara saw the stanchion. What is in question is whether or not he had time or intention to do something about his vision. Please believe, it has not been MY intent to crucify Mr. Chara. Without really knowing his intent or the real time factor of awareness he might have had, I will grant him the benefit of the doubt, even though I still believe a suspension of a minimum of 2 games would have been appropriate in Clobber's rule book.

Some other points of interest, some of them even mine!

If you shoot the puck over the glass in the defensive zone, two minutes; if you high-stick a guy, even unintentionally, two or four minutes if you draw red liquid. In the first case, it's a delay of game penalty. In the latter case, you must be responsible for your stick and actions.

Why isn't Chara, and others, not subject to the same logic? However long it took to bring Pacioretty around and get him off the ice should count as penalty time to Chara or his team, for delay of game!!! Since Max's parents were at the game, you could add 5 minutes for inducing high anxiety levels in parental units!

What irks me is that the refs called the interference on Chara, clearly NOT a 'hockey play' or it wouldn't garner a penalty and get him the boot, under the rules, due to the injury to Pacioretty.

In a game the next night, Pavel Kubina raps a guy on the back of the noggin from behind with his elbow; no call by the refs on the ice - the hit did look rather harmless to me; the league, however, suspends him three games. Kubina's not a Bruin, so I guess the 'zero or nothing at all' Cherry-picking rule does not apply in that case. I suppose Don would have given him 20 games. We do not know. We will never know. That's life under the Cherry Tree.

Remember folks, last year's across-ice, blind-side hit on Marc Savard by Matt Cooke was deemed, at the time, to be within the rules. You can however change the rules, quite quickly, as they did last year after that hit, and other instances involving head hits, drew the ire and concern of fans and the media.

Alas, I'm not sure Cherry considered Chara's hit even one to the head - it was the stanchion's fault, the Montreal organization's fault, for having the damn thing there in the first place. Bury you head in the sand from the soapbox again.

I will grant the fact that Cherry and I agree on many things.

He introduced a great concept tonight - the slanted stanchion. Mad Mike Milbury suggested a couple of men in blue uniforms stand between the players' benches, and get rid of the glass entirely. Okay, so I'm more for Cherry's proposal - since the police should be spending more time protecting people on the streets. Thus, 'Donald S.' should be lauded for his suggestion.

While we're at it, his Hockey Holiness - the Pope of Puffery - believes as well that it is the equipment, er, armour that these modern day hockey warriors wear that cause many injuries - to wit, the shoulder and elbow pads.. and in some cases still in some arenas, the glass itself.

Hurray! Totally agree. Go get 'em Grapes. Let's take-off all the pads and get back to pond shinny. Give each guy a couple of Sears' catalogues for shin pads, a cup for the ole dangling cobra and his precious jewels, a helmet with visor, and go whack a mole if ya want. Broken bones? Plenty of'em.. and, let's be fair, a few concussions. Head injuries will never be eliminated from hockey, any contact sport, or from life itself. Let's be realistic on that point but not let it prevent us from instituting preventative measures. In any case, I call for complete disarmament!

Let me end with one more thought on the affair Chara. There is a strange game of games-men-ship going on whereby both teams involved in the incident say the hit had nothing to do with past run-ins between the two players. It was, ergo, not revenge, and therefore not a factor. And... I have a nice piece of real estate in Florida to sell you. You never let the enemy know what you're really thinking, and plotting. You play to the crowd, the media lights and microphones... you lower the temperature, while behind closed doors you heighten the hazing rituals. (It happened here re Steve Moore/Bertuzzi. They even played one game against the Avs before the unfortunate event.) The calm before the storm.

Again, no one, including Chara can really tell you what he was thinking at the time. That is disturbing in and of itself - that even Chara may not have any idea now of what he was thinking in the moment. We are animals after-all. It could well have been unconscious, the little Chara-ian Pavlovian dog salivating in the subconscious yelling up at him 'smack the little fucker'. We'll... he'll... never know. And, yet another reason for a suspension - you can never prove, or disprove, intent in these things.

Moreover, while both teams are still not guaranteed a play-off spot, on that night neither team was in a must-win situation. Maybe I'm wrong here but as I watch the intensive battles between the still-in-it bottom feeders or the 7th or 8th seeds who must battle every night now to get a win or at least a point; the games, ironically, seem less 'violent'. There are few, or at least fewer, penalties. Little or NO goon-ery.

Think of the Olympics, the NHL play-offs; passing, skating, shooting, fore-checking, back-checking, every shift counts, be accountable, make no mistakes, certainly no costly mistakes.

Well, you can be a doctor, lawyer, or someone who has never really played the game at a professional level and opine... now that's hockey!!!

That's skill and competition at the highest level(s)!!!

Okay, there are terrible hits etc that happen at play-off time but for the most part it is a better game.

Who needs the other shite? The argument that hockey has always been a blood sport does not cut it any more. We're talking about the health of our children in the end... when they become old farts like the Clobber and need all the marbles they can to shoot against the wall.

You want to rumble, stay in your hometown bar and fight all ya want, hit someone into the bar rails, push some sucker down the stairs, crack someone's head open with a baseball bat, but don't you dare go near a hockey rink! Get thee to a gunnery!

Put in a new rule, like the high-sticking one. If you injure someone, you face a minimum of two games. That way everybody knows the rules, even Don Cherry.

Even HNIC's 'Mad Mike' is coming around to the fact that something has to be done, although I can't completely attest to his 'intent'. He IS smart enough to know that, while he too berates Air Canada and Via Rails of the world for threatening to stop their advertising and other NHl deals, it is the fans, and the public, who are demanding change. As a point, Mad Mike made his point about the advertisers while we all watched a replay of a beautiful individual goal-scoring play by Pavel Datsyuk of the Red Winged ones. Pure magic. A Michelangelo sculpture with a stick.

Mr. Cherry, on the other hand, hangs on to his media-induced ego and his old schoolyard back alley hockey ways, despite his concern for the game and thus positive suggestions he made tonight re the stanchions. He seems to be in denial/avoidance of the fact that eventually someone will die on the ice as a result of an unnecessary head hit.

Is he really prepared to have his show become 'Coach's Coroner', where he'll morph into Dominic Da Vinci looking over a fresh corpse at the Rogers Arena declaring "I'm afraid he died of a hockey play".

Dear Don, I endorse your love of the game. I love the way you instruct us in the ways of the game, especially how much time you spend at the rinks, how much time you spend teaching kids what to do and not do,.. on and off the ice. "Now kids remember.." is a wonderful part of your segment on HNIC. Alas, tonight, I would have not written one stinking line if you had simply said "Now kids remember..... when you have someone in a vulnerable position, even if he's not a Boston Bruin, let up..... after-all it's only a game and we don't want anyone getting injured".

For the love of the game and apparently from the looks of it, red wine!

Is my bottle half-empty or half-full?

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.

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