The scene was sickening, and the resulting injury leaves a pretty large pit in the stomach too. But it could have been a lot worse.
Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty was drilled by Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara last night into the glass divider that separates the two benches. The hit took place in the dying seconds of the second period, and Pacioretty laid motionless on the ice for several minutes while team doctors and trainers rushed to his aid. The silence that followed the initial anger and shock at the Bell Centre reminded some of the night Trent McCleary took a puck in the throat in Montreal.
Fears of a paralyzing injury were allayed when Pacioretty was conscious, alert, and moving his extremities shortly after leaving the ice on a stretcher. He was taken to a hospital for tests, and Habs head coach Jacques Martin announced the full extent of the 22-year-old’s injuries just after noon on Wednesday.
Predictably, Pacioretty suffered a severe concussion, and will be out indefinitely. Martin also said he sustained a fracture of the fourth cervical vertebrae, but it was not displaced.
Hockey and a return to the ice isn’t on Pacioretty’s lists of concerns right now. Maybe and hopefully it will be in the future, but simply making a full and complete recovery is the primary mission. That’s something the Bruins are quite familiar with as they looked on last night given the struggles of Marc Savard and Patrice Bergeron with their own head trauma.
“The most important thing for our organization right now is Max’s recovery,” said Martin. “We will continue following recommendations from the doctors”
Chara had a conference call with the league to discuss potential discipline. The call concluded a short time ago, and Chara was on the ice at practice. Colin Campbell removed himself from the proceedings since his son Gregory plays for the Bruins, which is always a wise move. That leaves Mike Murphy to spin the Wheel of Justice, and Murphy hasn’t given his ruling yet.
As I wrote last night, while there is no question Chara showed a lack of judgment, intelligence, and awareness of his position on the ice, it’s difficult to envision a scenario where a substantial suspension is given. Chara’s hit was late, and well after the puck had moved down the ice, which is why he was given the penalty for interference. The added game misconduct was result of the violent conclusion with the divider, and Pacioretty’s injury.
Chara should have eased up on the play, and the impact went beyond the limits of finishing a check. But if this hit takes place anywhere else on the rink, it’s a minor penalty, some rattling glass, and a few boos from the home crowd.
As with all the questionable hits we debate on a weekly basis, the divide in opinion has been polarizing and rigid. On Twitter some scribes haven’t been able to keep their 140 character opinions sensationalism free, while others are praising the Habs’ medical staff and wishing Pacioretty a speedy recovery.
At least we can all agree on something.
UPDATE: The NHL has announced that Chara will not receive any further discipline.
Murphy issued a statement explaining his rationale behind the decision.
“After a thorough review of the video I can find no basis to impose supplemental discipline. This hit resulted from a play that evolved and then happened very quickly — with both players skating in the same direction and with Chara attempting to angle his opponent into the boards. 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.”
If you were already sickened by Pacioretty’s injury, don’t scroll down. I know you’re going to do it anyway…