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Chara's non-suspension sparks debate among players

The Toronto Maple Leafs may be playing the Philadelphia Flyers tonight at the Air Canada Centre, but all of the talk at the rink (and in the hockey world in general) continues to focus on the fallout from Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara's hit on Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty on Tuesday.

If you haven't heard, Chara received a five-minute major for interference and a game misconduct on the play, but was not given a suspension afterwards. Pacioretty suffered a severe concussion and a broken vertebrae when he hit the partition between the two team's benches at the Bell Centre in Montreal.

As seems to be the case with many plays these days in the NHL, there's now a noticeable divide between players who feel it was simply a "hockey play" and those who want the book thrown at Chara.

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"I could be wrong, but I don't see anything in the past [from Chara]that's proven that he intentionally tried to guide him [into the partition]like that," Flyers defenceman Sean O'Donnell said. "It's an unfortunate hockey injury. That's the way I look at it.

"I've had some debates with guys in the room. They thought it shouldn't matter what happened, if you get a guy that's hurt like that, you should get suspended. I disagree."

Leafs winger Clarke MacArthur came in more on the other side of the issue.

"I mean the guy broke his neck and there's no punishment ... I don't know what that says," he said. "I feel bad for the guy, he gets a massive concussion and a broken neck and there's absolutely no suspension at all. That's a tough call. I watched it again in slow-mo, and I think someone else said it, you know where the partition is. That's just a tough play."

Several players wouldn't comment on the non-suspension at all today.

Others would only do so once most of the cameras and microphones had moved on, with many saying only at that point that they would have wanted a suspension if they had suffered such a devastating injury.

"How do you break a guy's neck and not get a game?" one veteran wondered in the Leafs dressing room. "One game? When someone breaks their neck, I know everyone in this room [asks that question] when you see that a guy's done for the year, and there isn't even a game."

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Flyers coach Peter Laviolette called the play "a difficult hit to evaluate."

"There's a range from [people saying]the league made the correct call to the amount of games suspension should have been substantial," he said. "It's just one of those unfortunate hits that happens in the game.

"Had that stanchion not been there, it would have been a good bodycheck. But the problem is the stanchion and the intent of the delivery. And I don't have any answers to that.

"Chara's been a pretty clean player in this league a long time. He plays the game tough and he plays it hard but he plays it by the rules. I feel bad for Max and what he's going through and nobody wants to see any injuries like that ever in a game."

Laviolette said the issue had created such a talking point in his dressing room that he was uneasy with taking a strong stand one way or another.

"It's just an unfortunate circumstance," he said. "You're right about opinions - I think I'll just keep mine to myself - because they range quite a bit."

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Flyers defenceman Chris Pronger, normally one of the more outspoken players in the league, followed suit.

"I'm going to be honest with you, it's not my place to comment," Pronger said. "I wasn't involved in it and I don't think people should look anything into it more than what the league's doing. It's their job to do something about it. And they chose to do whatever they've done."

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About the Author
Hockey Reporter

James joined The Globe as an editor and reporter in the sports department in 2005 and now covers the NHL and the Toronto Maple Leafs. More

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