Maybe NHL players have grown too big for the rink.
Last night, Zdeno Chara drove Max Pacioretty into the boards along the benches where there is no glass. Chara’s hit kept Pacioretty there, sliding along the boards, until Pacioretty collided with the turnbuckle that pads the edge where the glass begins again. Pacioretty was helpless. Under the weight of the 6’9″ 260 pound Chara, there was no chance for Pacioretty to save himself from hitting that turnbuckle.
Indeed, there is a lot of debate today over the hit today.
Sure, the hit “happened so fast.” But whether or not the hit was intentional is moot. With the velocity and weight that these men are travelling with on the rink these days, obstacles on and along the ice are critically noted hazards of the game. Every player knows where those turnbuckles are.
Heck, if NHLers weren’t constantly aware of the few obstacles out there on NHL rinks, then we’d have a lot of crippled linesmen at the end of the season.
Intent to injure? It doesn’t matter. In the end, it’s about simple awareness of oneself out there – and the responsibility all players share to avoid the everyday obstacles of the rink.
NHL players are bigger and faster, but there is no evidence to suggest that they cannot avoid the turnbuckles of the rink they play on every day. If there is a suspension for Chara, and there should be, it won’t be for a malicious hit – rather, it will be for malicious negligence.
UPDATE: According to the Montreal Gazette, Max Pacioretty has been diagnosed with a fractured vertebra and a severe concussion. No word yet on the disciplinary action the NHL may or may not take on Chara.
UPDATE: The NHL has decided that no suspension or fine will be issued to Chara. The Bruins and the Canadiens will face each other again on March 24th.