Trending Topics is a column that looks at the week in hockey according to Twitter. If you're only going to comment to say how stupid Twitter is, why not just go have a good cry for the slow, sad death of your dear internet instead?
Let's just start by saying that what Zdeno Chara did was reprehensible and deserved at least a five-game suspension.
It's my belief that he knew what he was doing, but that he didn't, obviously, intend to break the guy's neck. There's a certain amount of message-sending that I would have expected in a game like that, but Chara crossed the line, doubled back, and crossed it again. Repeatedly. That he may have ended Max Pacioretty's career is obviously terrible, and I think something should have been done on the league's part. That he didn't get suspended is ridiculous, if for no other reason than because of the inevitable PR fallout.
Then Chara hid on the bus until a Bruins employee told him he had to face the media, said he didn't know where on the ice he was, had the temerity to say Pacioretty jumped into the stanchion, and later stated he didn't even realize it was his frequent antagonist whose face he was driving into a wall at 20 miles an hour, as if that made the act any more palatable. All those statements are bordering on pure fiction.
With that being said, this controversial hit, combined with the swirling tempest of concussion witch hunts, headshot debates and suspension culture in the NHL today, made everyone go completely off the rails.
(Later, as if to really underscore the absurdity of the whole thing, the NHLPA, via its big cheese Donald Fehr expressed its concern for … whether the stanchion was properly padded. None of this is made up.)
Of course there were the morons in Montreal who called the cops and asked them to arrest Zdeno Chara, as though he had beat up their friend at a bar, and been running around shirtless, hiding under gigantic overturned kiddie pools. Sure, it can't be easy to separate what is, again, perhaps the grisliest hit seen in the NHL in years from the emotion that someone must feel when their favorite team is involved.
But calling the cops? Honestly?
People need to understand that for better or worse, this did happen in the context of a game. And not in the Bertuzzi-Moore sense where it was needless and horrifying violence that happened to have taken place in a game. This was at least something that happened in the run of play during a normal contest. The result was ugly, no doubt, but people who called the cops on Chara need their heads thoroughly examined. Geoff Molson's open letter that essentially egged them on is regrettable but not at all surprising.
And that law enforcement officials actually took these maniacs up on their complaints? Ridiculous. I don't know how Quebec's Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions got his job, but this is political pandering at its basest level. To see if there's a way to bring someone up on charges over something like this, and not a Bertuzzi or McSorley or even Jonthan Roy case, is revolting.
The worst of it, though, was perpetrated by Air Canada, which told the NHL (while CCing the management of all six Canadian franchises) it would yank its sponsorship of the league unless something was done to protect players.
In theory, how can you not agree with the company? The NHL clearly does not do enough these days to keep its players safe, as evidenced by just about every injury we've seen this year. It's easy to say, "Air Canada's right, so finally someone is forcing the league to do something!!!" People were happy this was happening. How could that be?
But do we really want that? If the NHL had said, "Well heck, Air Canada's gonna take away our money so we better step in and stop this," then two things would have been accomplished, and two things only. First, it would have stood as everlasting evidence that the league will shamelessly prostitute itself, selling out what it had just held up as The Integrity of the Game earlier that day, because someone said they'd take away its allowance. Second, and more importantly, it would have thrown all the oil in Alberta on what is already a very slippery slope.
If the league only protected player safety because Air Canada told it to — and not because it, y'know, wants to or, more accurately, should — then how far away would we be, really, from seeing the nets get bigger because Verizon says they want more scoring, and a mandatory shootout after every game because Enterprise's VP of marketing really likes them?
Speaking of which, it can't be a coincidence that the person who was quoted throughout that provacative and sickening Air Canada story from QMI had a French-Canadian name and I'm sure just happens to be based in Montreal as a matter of coincidence. Perhaps this makes me as big a francophone-hatin' xenophobe as Don Cherry (peep my last name for the heritage, homebros) but it leads me to wonder how much better he or Air Canada is than the morons who called 9-1-1 a full 18 hours after Max Pacioretty was admitted to the hospital. However, I'm sure Air Canada's deeply held moral imperative to step in and do anything in its power to protect the players would have been the same if it had been, let's say, Dallas' Steve Ott putting Phoenix's Lauri Korpikoski in the hospital.
Lots of people, fans included, already look at the NHL as the biggest joke in professional sports. If it had started making league-wide policy changes based on what corporate sponsors think, then it would've been in worse shape than anyone dreamed possible. For Gary Bettman to take a stand and say no was more than we could have expected. For him to say, "We're the NHL and we don't need you," must have had every PR and ad guy in the league softly weeping in a corner.
In this argument, it seems, everyone can be wrong at the same time.
We all know Zdeno Chara escaped punishment because the NHL executive who should have suspended him deemed the hit a "hockey play." Here are some others:
@saskhab: Ulf Samulesson kneeing Cam Neely
@ACatNamedFelix: Attacking a fan with a shoe
@toooast: Dino Ciccarelli clubbing Luke Richardson over the head repeatedly until he falls down?
@rapid_roman61: Wayne Maki's stick on Ted Green's head
@SabresFans_com: Ulf Samuelsson knocks out Gretz's wife
@mlse: Tie Domi punching Ulf Samuelsson with no glove? Awesome. But also, a #HockeyPlay
Pearls of Biz-Dom
We all know that there isn't a better Twitter account out there than that of Paul Bissonnette. So why not find his best bit of advice on love, life and lappers from the last week?
BizNasty on slump-bustin': "Someone tell Mikka Kiprusoff to let in one of my muffins in tomorrow night for my Birthday. I need a goal bad."
If you've got something for Trending Topics, holla at Lambert on Twitter or via email. He'll even credit you so you get a thousand followers in one day and you'll become the most popular person on the Internet! You can also visit his blog if you're so inclined.