For the first segment of Historical Tough Call, I turn to the incident that gave me the idea for this blog. The discussions I was involved in after Zdeno Chara rang Max Pacioretty’s head like a bell at a fair were the kind you lose friends over. It was irritating and fun all at the same time, and yet even when I watched the play now to write this article, I can’t believe some people see it the way they do. It’s one of those plays where you’re on one side or the other. I’ve never met anyone who didn’t feel strongly about this one. So how do I feel? Who’s side am I on?
Well, it’s bringing up a lot of painful memories for me, because I have to liver every day knowing justice will never be served. It was a blatant attempt to injure! Chara had no business hitting Pacioretty at all! I know. If he wanted to hit for interference, this doesn’t prove intent to injure. He knew exactly where he was on the ice too. I know. All he did was throw a hit. What’s the problem? The problem is the extra push with the forearm. Here’s where any defence falls short with me.
Let’s just say Chara had no idea where he was on the ice, and only
meant to block Pacioretty from putting pressure on the puck. That’s pretty dumb in itself, but you can see how he would want to slow him down. And he does just that. They have a battle for the puck, and Pacioretty knocks it forward. At this point, Chara has already made contact and slowed him down! With the puck long gone, ANY form of finishing that check from here on out is going to be an interference penalty. Boston is already down 4-0. There’s only 20 seconds left in the period. If he lets Pacioretty squeak by, nothing is going to happen to hurt Chara’s team enough to warrant taking that penalty, so the decision to actually finish the check automatically puts Pacioretty at an unnecessary and unexpected risk. The 5 minute penalty on the ice is the right call because of that. He goes out of his way to re-engage and make the extra hit. S-T-U-P-I-D, but you could still try and argue there was no intent. It was just an unfortunate accident.
But if every defence leading up to this was true, at the last second he would have noticed what was about to happen and let off the hit. Chara had already slowed down from the initial contact and gathered full control of himself. He could dictate what happened next and made a conscious choice to hit again. There is actually plenty of room for Pacioretty to avoid hitting the boards. The ONLY reason his head hits the turnbuckle is because Chara sticks his forearm out just to make sure he takes away all possible escape routes. By now, he would have seen what was about to happen. Even at this late stage, if he had no intention of injuring anybody, he could have made an effort to lower his arm and let Max skate beside him. Instead, he actually drives his arm forward and thrusts Pacioretty hard, guiding him directly to his fate. Everything that happened during this play was as a direct result of Chara’s decision making, and nothing will convince me that the decisions weren’t intentional because there were too many opportunities for him right up to the very end to lessen the extent of the injury.
This should have been a massive suspension, maybe 10 games. Instead, it does down in history as a Tough No Call.