|Chara drives Pacioretty's head into the stanchion|
It's clear that they also badly miscalculated public perception when they gave Zdeno Chara a pass on his violent and dangerous hit. The league will tell us that they cannot take public opinion into account when dishing out punishment in relation to an on-ice foul, but they should.
The NHL is an entertainment business and tailoring its product to what customers want makes good business sense.
I think it's fair to say that the fans didn't like what they saw and expected the NHL to see it the same way.
One the leagues sponsor's AIR CANADA has already sent an ominous letter to the league warning that they are considering pulling out because of the increased level of violence.
"From a corporate social responsibility standpoint, it is becoming increasingly difficult to associate our brand with sports events which could lead to serious and irresponsible accidents; action must be taken by the NHL before we are encountered with a fatality. AIR CANADAThe Pacioretty incident was so violent and gruesome that it jumped off the sports pages into the mainstream press and unfortunately, the league's non-reaction solidifies the general perception (outside the league's fan base) that professional hockey is nothing more than glorified roller derby on ice.
The incredibly graphic nature of the hit and the spectre of a motionless body sprawled on the ice for an agonizing amount of time did more to set back minor hockey, than any other incident in the recent past.
What mother charged with protecting the well-being of her child could watch that incident without being put off hockey for her child, thinking perhaps that soccer is a better choice?
Most of you watched the incident after the fact and the chilling effect was no doubt mitigated by the knowledge that Pacioretty made it to the hospital and although badly injured, was not facing a life-threatening situation.
But for those of us of us who witnessed the incident in real time on TV, we lived through several minutes of abject horror as Pacioretty lay motionless on the ice. As we watched the doctors and training staff struggle over his limp body, there was legitimate concern that Pacioretty may have become the first on-ice fatality.
The NHL and their disciplinary organ in their collective wisdom decided to give Chara a pass, an act that defies legal principles and common good sense.
Is there anyone who doubts that if Pacioretty was killed, that Chara would be facing involuntary manslaughter charges?
"Tuesday's ruling was plain and simple about separating the result from the act." LINK
I hope Mr. Burnside never stands before a real judge and tries that sort of defence.
"Your Honour, I know I was driving drunk, but the fact that I hit a child riding a bicycle and broke one of his vertebrae and left him severely concussed, should not have any bearing on my punishment. It was a simple act of drunk driving which should be separated from the result"I don't believe that there's a judge in North America who wouldn't throw the book at the fool offering that sort of defence. If Mr. Burnside had legal representation the lawyer would be well advised to tape his client's mouth shut before allowing him to make that pitch.
"The other defence being bandied about by Chara's defenders is that the hit was out of character and that he never meant to injure Pacioretty.
"You honour, I shouldn't be punished because it's out of my character and at any rate, I didn't mean it"Hmmm....Really........
Such is the fantasy world of the Scott Burnside and the NHL.
Let me quote Charles P. Pierce in the Boston Globe;
"Executive assistant district attorney Jack McCoy (Law & Order) used to warn us all that "intent follows the bullet." If you get a little sockless one night and shoot a gun out the window of your apartment accidentally into the wall across the alley, you are not punished as harshly as would be the case if you got a little sockless one night and shot a gun out the window of your apartment accidentally into the noggin of a bicycle messenger who is riding down the alley....Which is about where Zdeno Chara is right now."- Link To Hab and Hab notHockey fans are not as stupid or bloodthirsty as the league presumes. Fans like clean open ice checks and yes, a good punch up between two matched players who follow the rules, duke it out a bit and then break cleanly. If a player is outmatched or unable to defend himself, the referees break up the fight and the 'winning' fighter is expected to back off honourably. These are fair rules that everybody follows scrupulously. No fan wants to see a mismatched fight or somebody cheating by biting or kicking or some other dishonourable act.
At any rate we all know that these types of fights rarely lead to serious injury and it satisfies our blood lust rather harmlessly.
That being said, fans don't appreciate players being launched head first into the boards or given a dangerous cheap shot, be it an elbow to the head, knee to knee contact or a cowardly slew foot.
Does it make sense at all for players racing back to touch the puck for icing to be subjected to gratuitous and completely unnecessary body checks from behind?
The NHL has demonstrated in the past that the game can be modified significantly without affecting the competition. I recently screened an old playoff game from the seventies and was amazed at the ghoulish and dangerous behaviour of players, where hooking and interference was the norm. The league changed for the better and can eliminate certain dangerous behaviour without affecting the on-ice product, it is a question of will.
Ten years ago, Formula One car racing suffered a run of dangerous accidents and deaths. Cars had gotten too fast and dangerous. The powers that be realized that such was unacceptable and made significant changes both safety-wise and even took the unpopular decision to slow cars down through technical limitations. It had to be done, those who ran the sport knew it was in their selfish best interest to fix a dangerous situation.
Today Formula One remains as competitive and exciting as ever. Accidents, which are much fewer and farther between have much less devastating consequences.
It's high time that the NHL paid attention to the welfare of their players. If they can't see to it, fans should demand it.
Incidentally, the very worst thing for Chara was not to be suspended, it would have been in his own best interest to sit out for a couple of games. Coupled with a sincere apology (which he has not offered to date,) he could have put this incident behind him, no matter what Pacioretty's outcome.
Most Boston fans concede with good grace, that a 2-4 game suspension would have ended the incident.
Now Chara stands marked forever as a goon in the court of public opinion and just like O.J. Simpson, a man scorned for having gotten away with murder, the perception remains among fans that Chara got away with a dirty hit causing injury.
I'll presume now to speak for all readers of this blog, in wishing Max Pacioretty a speedy recovery.
If you'd like to send a personal public message to Max Pacioretty, please feel free to use the comment section.
Have a wonderful weekend.