The Injustice League
I wanted to wait until the ruling came out, before I wrote this blog entry. It’s a very difficult situation to judge when one is wearing “Habs fan blinders” as dark as the ones I generally have on. I’m happy to admit, when something happens involving the Habs, I side with them. I can always find a reason that they are in the right, even if it is questionable. That’s what being a fan is about, and I have no intention of changing.
In this situation, however, it was important to take off the blinders, and analyze this situation properly. After all, a man could have lost his life.
All that being said, here’s my take.
On the evening of March 8, 2011, the Montreal Canadiens hosted the Boston Bruins in a match that was talked about in forums, newspapers, television broadcasts, radio talk shows, cafés, around the water cooler, at the dinner table, etc. etc. etc. Fair, and probably a huge understatement to say the Habs/Bruins rivalry is alive and well.
In the meeting prior, aptly named “The Beatdown in Beantown”, the two teams combined for 187 penalty minutes, 8 fighting majors, 14 Goals and 1 goalie fight. It was the talk of the hockey world and everyone wondered if this rematch would yield the same sort of fisticuffs and overall loss of control that filled the last meeting between the two clubs.
Slightly over 5 minutes into the 1st period, Johnny Boychuk took a run at PK Subban. Subban’s skating skills allowed him to, more or less, side step the hit, and it nearly resulted on a knee on knee collision. (remember when these were the “buzz” hits around the league?) Ryan White jumped to his stars aid, immediately engaging Boychuk in a fight. You might remember Boychuk as the guy who laid the beats to a rather unwilling Spacek in the last meeting. Boychuk, a willing dance partner, took several hard punches from the Habs “tough guy by default” and at the end, tapped him on the fight as if to say, “I deserved that, good fight.” Situation resolved. Here’s the part I don’t understand. Why does White deserve an instigator penalty in this situation? For defending his teammate, who could have been severely injured on the play, White is out of the game for a total of 17 minutes, and the Habs are forced to kill a penalty. There is injustice number one.
For the next thirty something minutes, the game went exactly as I had hoped it would. The Bruins tried to lure the Habs into fights and general nonsense, while the Habs ignored them and played a game of speed and precision. The result was an extremely irritated Bruins squad and a Habs lead of 4-0. Payback’s a bitch, isn’t it?
With less than 30 seconds to play in the 2nd period, a terrible, terrible thing happened. Max Pacioretty chipped the puck up the ice and gave chase. The only thing standing between him and a potential end of period breakaway was a foot race with a 6’-9” monster of a defenseman, Zdeno Chara. As he sped along the boards, it began to look like he would win this race. Then everything went black for the young winger.
Anyone reading this blog has undoubtedly seen the hit and has formatted his/her opinion of it. I am not interested in debating Chara’s intent here. This is not a discernable or measureable item in this debate. Whether he meant to do it or not is in the mind of Chara and his alone. What I wish to discuss is the ridiculous decision made by league vice president, Mike Murphy. He has decided that Chara’s hit was legal and therefore, no subsequent discipline will be handed out. No fine. No suspension.
First of all, why is Mike Murphy making this decision? Colin Campbell is the supposed head of the disciplinarian committee, isn’t he? So because his son is a member of the Bruins, he doesn’t have to be a part of the biggest disciplinary hearing of season? Possibly the biggest hearing since the Todd Bertuzzi incident exactly 7 years prior? Wow. I wish my job worked like that. “Things are a little difficult today so I’m going to take the day off.” Anyone else on the planet who finds themselves unable to perform their job doesn’t get to keep it. If having a son in the NHL keeps you from acting on the most important disciplinary situation of this season, you are a failure. This is injustice number two.
Recently there was an incident with Trevor Gillies in Long Island, in which Gillies, a known thug laid a questionable hit on Minnesota agitator, Cal Clutterbuck. The league hit him hard with a 10 game suspension. There has been much debate as to whether Gillies a: deserved this lofty suspension or b: even deserved a penalty at all on the hit. Sound familiar?
When Chara hit Pacioretty last night, I couldn’t help but directly compare the two. Both hits raised a debate over what’s a clean hit or not, but Chara’s hit had a much more devastating consequence. Yes Gillies is a repeat offender, but should this really matter? I never expected Chara to get the 10 games that Gillies got, but he should have. This is injustice number three.
At this point I would like to discuss the hit itself. I, for one, have a belief that the league’s stance on “hits to the head” is more media driven than out of concern for the safety of the players. If TSN’s Bob McKenzie stated that Alternate Jersey’s should be outlawed in the NHL and all of the other media pundits tweeted and facebooked his comments into immortality, it would be the hot button issue of the day and not “head shots”.
That being said, lets dissect this hit. As they approach the boards, it is clear that Paccioretty has a step on him. Chara sticks his knee out in an attempt to slow him down. That’s fine. It’s the first part of the interference penalty, but it’s not dangerous. The proper way to finish this check, is to follow in with the hip, and then apply the shoulder. This is not what Chara did though. Instead he brings the elbow up into Pacioretty’s head and then extends his forearm, ramming Pacioretty’s head into the stanchion. Say what you will about this analysis. It’s fact. And this was a dirty hit. This was injustice number four.
How does Gillies get 10 games for a play that wasn’t even a penalty, and Chara gets nothing for a dangerous play that almost cost a man his life?
“If you cause a player to be injured, then you have to be responsible for the play that you’re involved in.” This is a quote from Colin Campbell in 2010 while discussing the Matt Cooke hit on Marc Savard. All this talk about wanting to “send a message” to the players about head shots, and “respect for your fellow players” was exactly that. Talk.
So now, Max Pacioretty’s career is in jeopardy, with a major concussion and a broken 4th vertibrae, and Zdeno Chara goes unpunished into the playoffs. This is injustice number 5.
I expected 2 or 3 games and was going to be upset about that result, but nothing???? I’m frothing at the mouth right now I’m so angry.