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…

Comments (11)

  1. How is the argument that it isn’t as bad if it takes place on another part of the rink even relevant. You are in a dangerous area, you should be aware of the increased risk. If someone gets pushed into a goal post you can’t say it wasn’t so bad because if we were along the boards it would have been a minor incident; or pushing someone off a cliff but saying if we were in a field nothing major would have happened

  2. As I wrote, I think Chara displayed a severe lack of judgment and awareness of where he is on the ice. But punishment should be based more on the action itself, and not the injury.

    Chara made an incredibly dumb decision by choosing to continue to engage Pacioretty well after the puck had moved down the ice. But–in my humble opinion–he didn’t purposely shove Pacioretty into the divider. His intention was to take a player out of the play, and he carried on with that for far too long.

  3. That big ape should be out as long as Pacioretty is, if the NHL dose not do this they are just asking for a death to happen next, he needs to be amade a example of for this hit. Some people are saying it was Chara finishing a hit , the puck was long gone and it was intensional to hurt him for the shove in the back the last game they beat them.

  4. Unfortunately, only Chara himself knows what his intent was. I think you give him too much benefit of the doubt, however, Sean. Canadiens players are effective at getting under his skin, getting him angry, and reducing his effectiveness on the ice. It is worth noting that at that point in the game the Bruins were being completely dominated by their most hated rival, down 4-0 in a game with lots of hype and trash talk prior to puck drop. Throw in the history between the two players, and I believe Chara knew exactly where he was and what he was doing. It was an awfully big follow-through with his forearm. For Chara to suggest that Pacioretty “leaned and jumped”, thereby increasing the severity of the injury, was not only untrue, but classless as well. While I’ve never liked Chara as a hockey player, I’ve always (begrudgingly) respected the way he plays. No longer.

  5. He took him out of the play for sure. Probably for the rest of the season. I can’t say that Chara intended for Max Pac to hit his head on the divider, but I can say that the league has always taken the stand that you are completely responsible for knowing where you are on the ice. If a player hits someone and he goes headfirst into the boards he is punished for it regardless of his intent. In a league that is trying to take a tough stand on head hits, something needs to be done to Chara or all credibility will be lost on this issue. If this hit happened to Crosby the world would be up in arms about it. The argument about “if it happened elsewhere on the ice it’s not even a penalty” doesn’t fly with me. If Chara put on a tutu he could dance swan lake. Neither of those comments is relevant. It didn’t happen somewhere else on the ice. It happened where it happened and deliberate or not Chara needs to be more aware of where is he and the damage he can cause. ESPECIALLY away from the puck. It was an absolutely needless hit.

  6. Han fans the biggest bunch of cry babies. If something happens to one of there players it the end of the world. They hit after the whistle all the time and because Gomez and the likes are small in size they get away with it all game long. The Bruins have lost more than their share of players from head shots and hits from behind i.e. Marc Savard and Patrice Bergeron. The only way to avoid this injury would be to have glass all the way around. Pacioretty is not the first player to ever hit the glass divider. Hockey is a fast physical game that everyone likes to try and analyse. Unless you have played hockey at this level, then leave it up to his piers assesment. Its easy with slow motion replay to say he should have done this or not that but things happen in fractions of seconds on the ice surface. The glass partition caused the damage, Chara checked him, Max leaned forward to try and avoid the hit and ran out of space.

  7. [...] Posted by Scott Lewis under General on Mar 09, 2011 As colleague Tomlinson mentioned in his updated post on Zdeno Chara’s devastating hit on Max Pacioretty, the NHL will be not hand down any supplemental discipline on the Bruins [...]

  8. [...] by Rick Moldovanyi under Offbeat on Mar 10, 2011 While the NHL world is still buzzing about the Zdeno Chara/Max Pacioretty situation some people have taken it a step further.  The Montreal police was flooded by callers who asked [...]

  9. the amount of people calling for Chara’s head is ridiculous. I agree with Bev, Hab fans are the biggest b*tches and the media is jumping on this like he shot the guy! Of course it’s terrible what happened but it still was a hockey play, unlike Matt Cooke’s hit on Savard. I don’t think the NFL suspened the guy who collided with Dennis Byrd when he got paralyzed. It’s unfortunate but not malicious or criminal like most are making it out to be.

  10. [...] aren’t pleased with the league’s decision to take no action against Zdeno Chara after his hit on Montreal forward Max Pacioretty last Tuesday.Boudreau thinks there are better ways to get a point across.“Don’t come. If you [...]

  11. [...] to bed, that fight night and Pacioretty’s alleged taunting may or may not have led to his head hitting a stanchion after a hit from Chara. This is exactly what it looked and sounded like too…But that’s [...]

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