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Some more thoughts on the Pacioretty hit

Bruce Bennett/2009 Getty Images

In a recent game pitting Newcastle United versus Bolton Wanderers, Magpies midfielder Ryan Taylor went in for a red-blooded, two-footed tackle on Swedish striker Johan Elmander near the centre circle.

The referee showed him a straight red card, Elmander was able to carry on after cartwheeling to the turf.

Taylor, then, was expulsed from the game and hit with an automatic three-game suspension for being sent off - and his target wasn't injured to speak of.

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Professional soccer leagues around the world punish dangerous and unsporting play with immediate expulsions and, more crucially, automatic suspensions.

No one can argue that what Zdeno Chara did to Max Pacioretty wasn't dangerous - the point isn't criminal intent, or the architecture of the building, or whether it was a legal play.

It was avoidable and dangerous, period.

So why doesn't hockey follow soccer's lead? Over to you, Messrs. Bettman and Fehr.

I've really been trying to understand the perspective of people, most of them in Boston, the NHL head office, or in the employ of TSN and Rogers, who firmly believe it was just a hockey play gone wrong.

Sorry, can't do it.

It seems to me that more than anything Chara benefits from the "good-guy" exemption, the same way Mike Richards did after targeting David Booth's head

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It's just part of the game, finishing your check is within the rules, the boffins say (same way Matt Cooke's hit on Marc Savard was legal, although Cooke doesn't get the benefit of the doubt or the good-guy defence, ever).


It was late, the puck was long gone, Chara's arm was up, he caught Pacioretty from three-quarters behind. It's why he was penalized.

So what the league is actually saying is that five and a game was punishment enough.

He's an honest player, you can't consider the consequences, the apologists say, you have to look at the act in isolation. Like they do whenever Cooke acts up?

I can see the point trying to separate the consequence of a play from the legality of the play itself; not every reckless or vicious play results in injury, but it should still be punished.

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But if you look at incidents like the Chara/Pacioretty hit without considering the effects on the victim, then shouldn't you also discard external mitigating and aggravating factors like reputation, rap-sheet and precedent?

There's an argument to be made for that, but it's not how courts work.

At minimum, Chara was careless, at worst he was wilfully negligent, both those things can get you jail time in the real world.

And in court, it's not the intent to injure that matters, it's the intent to commit the act, in this case hitting Pacioretty - you are responsible under the law for the reasonably foreseeable consequences of your actions.

As Brian Mulroney said to John Turner, you had a choice, sir. Chara could have eased up, he could have let Pacioretty by (the puck was out of his reach so there wouldn't have been a two-on-one, and besides, the game was already 4-0).

Ronald King of La Presse had an interesting insight in his column on Thursday, pointing out Chara's body language after the hit, when the Habs' Scott Gomez came over to give him an earful ("Let's put it this way, I wasn't asking him where he was going for dinner after the game," said Gomez, who wouldn't reveal what he said).

Chara was just standing there, he wasn't aggressive (like he was when Pacioretty pushed him in the back earlier this year), he wasn't defensive, he wasn't yelling back, he was just standing like a guy who knows he's gone too far and is shocked by what he's just done.

* * *

Oh, and one other point: There have been roughly 1,100 NHL games played at the Bell Centre since 1996, and an incident of this magnitude involving a stanchion had happened precisely zero times.

Zdeno Chara has played about 40 games at the arena over his career - players know things like where the boards are lively, where the glass yields tricky bounces, it's simply not plausible that Chara didn't understand where he was or the danger that part of the ice presents to all players, every night.

Gomez pointed out on Wednedsay that "15 guys yell 'door, door'" when the door to the benches is open and a player of either team is coming toward the boards. It's a known danger area.

Besides, it's not like it's the first time a Bruins player has bounced an opponent off the stanchion this month. As the Boston Globe pointed out, it happened at the St. Pete Times Forum on Mar. 3 - um, a whole five days before the Habs game.

Milan Lucic did it to Dana Tyrell, who wasn't badly injured because Lucic went in shoulder to shoulder and didn't put his elbow behind Tyrell's ear just as he met the post.

See? A good guy.

* * *

Actually, one last, last point: When the league did its phone conference with Chara, might it not have been courteous to call Pacioretty for his version of what happened? Or does the victim only get to testify in court proceedings?

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About the Author
National Correspondent

Sean Gordon joined the Globe's Quebec bureau in 2008 and covers the Canadiens, Alouettes and Impact, as well as Quebec's contingent of Olympic athletes. More

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