The Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens will meet on Thursday night for the first time since Zdeno Chara's brutal hit on Max Pacioretty left him, in the words of Coach Jacques Martin, with "a severe concussion, as well as a fracture of the fourth cervical vertebrae, but it's not displaced."
Despite a massive outcry from Canadiens loyalists, Chara wasn't suspended by the NHL for the hit.
Nine days after the incident, Martin said that Pacioretty's prognosis had improved, somewhat dramatically: "It's encouraging that he will be able to start his training in a short time and should be able to play in the playoffs."
While he welcomes the recovery, veteran Bruins winger Mark Recchi believes the dire initial news and the more optimistic outlook just over a week later wasn't a coincidence.
"I believe yeah, they were trying to get Zdeno suspended and they embellished it a little bit. In terms of that side, they were trying to do whatever they could to get him suspended," Recchi told the Felger & Massarotti Show on 98.5 FM The Sports Hub on Wednesday afternoon.
What else did Recchi have to say?
From the Felger & Massarotti Show, some of the Pacioretty-relevant comments from Recchi:
Q. What's your reaction to how that story played out in Montreal over the last couple of weeks?
RECCHI: "I think the League made their statement when they didn't suspend Zdeno, Big Z. That was all that really should have come out of it. They deemed it a hockey play and nothing more. We all know it was an accident, and that's the bottom line. Zdeno had no intentions to hurt him, and it was unfortunate there was a partition there and that it happened. But it's the game of hockey and part of it. I think when the NHL didn't suspend him, they made a huge statement that it was just a hockey play."
Well Mark Recchi, I'm sure you're aware that up in Canada they threatened to arrest him. They had fans calling police lines asking for an arrest warrant be taken out on him. There's been sponsorships threatened. The owner of the Canadiens came out and spoke out against the League. My question is: Has the story changed in your mind since it turns out Pacioretty's OK? That he'll probably be ready for the playoffs?
"Well, you know what? We're very thankful that he is OK and he's getting better. We know he was twittering at a movie four days later, five days later. Obviously if you have a bad concussion like they said, you're not going to be in a movie. So we're glad in that sense that he's getting better. But it was a hockey play and an injury happened."
Yeah, well, Mark, let me be more direct: Does it bother you they embellished it, obviously?
"Well obviously, yeah. When there's an injury … he does obviously have a fractured vertebrae, but the concussion was obviously, really a non-factor. Maybe a day or two. Maybe a day he felt it, and then he was fine couple days later. I believe yeah, they were trying to get Zdeno suspended and they embellished it a little bit. I guess in terms of that side, I guess they were trying to do what they could to get him suspended.
"I think the League sent a message that it was a hockey play. And that's the important thing that people have to understand. If the League deemed it something serious … they just suspended Matt Cooke for up to 17 games for a headshot. They're serious about protecting the players right now.
"That was an interference play, at worst, and the partitions got in the way. I don't think Zdeno is to blame for that, obviously the League found that. We don't feel as players it is. I've been run into the turnbuckle probably 40 times over my career. As a winger, that's the risk you take when you go along the boards like that. "
Well, consider that scab ripped open.
Look, there's no question that when Chara was going to plead his case to the NHL, the announcement of Pacioretty's injuries had a huge effect on public sentiment. There were questions if he was ever going to play in the NHL again.
To go from that to a potential return in the playoffs is understandably jarring and suspicious to a player like Recchi, who was in that foxhole with Chara and has been playing in the NHL since 1989. He's had his share of injuries. He's seen his share of teammates concussed. He's seen how teams operate when there's the potential for supplemental discipline, and the PR battles that are waged by general managers and coaches.
As they say, this isn't his first rodeo.
But, for the love of the hockey gods, why, why, why would you voice this theory on the radio?
Why would you pour gasoline on the embers, even if you're convinced it's true? The teams play on Thursday. They could very well play in the postseason. The hockey world had turned its weary eyes to Matt Cooke after weeks of Chara/Pacioretty; Recchi just shot up a giant burning flare to draw attention back the other way.
No one should be naïve enough to think teams don't do what Recchi claims the Canadiens did. There's no doubt cynical applause for his voicing an opinion that others silently shared, upon hearing of Pacioretty's recovery.
But for a veteran as cagey as they come, Recchi's gotta know this isn't what the Bruins needed on March 23.
- Montreal Canadiens
- Mark Recchi
- Zdeno Chara
- Max Pacioretty