Puck Daddy - NHL

There are those who watched the Zdeno Chara hit on Max Pacioretty on Tuesday night and saw a player with a clean record unintentionally slam Pacioretty's head into the stanchion between the benches, accidentally concussing him and breaking his neck on what was otherwise a pedestrian interference penalty. 

One of those people happens to be a National Hockey League senior vice president of hockey operations, and Mike Murphy(notes) declared Wednesday afternoon that there would be no supplemental discipline for the Boston Bruins defenseman for taking out the Montreal Canadiens forward. No fine, no suspension, nada.

From the NHL and Murphy:

"I conducted a hearing with Boston Bruins' defenseman Zdeno Chara(notes) with respect to the major penalty for interference and game misconduct that he was assessed at 19:44 of the second period for a hit on Max Pacioretty(notes) of the Montreal Canadiens.

"After a thorough review of the video I can find no basis to impose supplemental discipline. This hit resulted from a play that evolved and then happened very quickly -- with both players skating in the same direction and with Chara attempting to angle his opponent into the boards.  I could not find any evidence to suggest that, beyond this being a correct call for interference, that Chara targeted the head of his opponent, left his feet or delivered the check in any other manner that could be deemed to be dangerous.

"This was a hockey play that resulted in an injury because of the player colliding with the stanchion and then the ice surface. In reviewing this play, I also took into consideration that Chara has not been involved in a supplemental discipline incident during his 13-year NHL career."  

Do you agree or disagree with the NHL's decision, and do you feel its justification was fair?

It's a completely reasonable read of the Chara hit, though the notion of a "hockey play" equaling a five-minute major and a game misconduct is a little anomalous.

It's not a decision with which we agree, for the reasons stated at the end of this post; it's an illegal play that caused a significant injury to an opposing player, and there needs to be some responsibility taken for that.

But the NHL saw it differently. So did Hall of Fame linesman Ray Scapinello on Puck Daddy Radio on Wednesday. Scapinello predicted that Mike Murphy wouldn't give Chara anything additional at the league level:

"To me, it was nothing more than an interference penalty. Because there were injuries to the head or face, the referees did exactly what they needed to do which is call a major, which equates to a game misconduct.

"The most innocent hits where no penalty was involved whatsoever can result in injury. ... In my humble opinion, it was just a very, very unfortunate situation."

Indeed it is, as Max Pacioretty begins his recovery from a severe concussion and a fracture to the fourth cervical vertebra.

One of the aspects of this controversy that's developed Wednesday is how common, and unpunished, the type of hit Chara had has been in the NHL.

Witness Jack Johnson(notes) on Ryan Smyth(notes) in 2008, a play that echoes the Chara hit:

Colorado Avalanche blog The Dog and Pony Show called it "a perfectly legal hit."

Said Ryan Smyth at the time, after suffering a concussion and a separated shoulder:

"A foot either way it would have been fine," Smyth said. "If I was a foot back from it, I would have been able to brace myself with my other shoulder and I would have been fine. A foot past it and I just get rubbed out against the glass. It was just a freak thing. 

"It was pretty bad though. I've watched it slowly a couple of times." 

It's a different play; more of a race to the puck and less interference behind the action. But still an interesting point of comparison. 

Also of note from that Sun Media article:

Following the play, Avalanche forward Ian Laperriere(notes) challenged Johnson, but nothing came of it. "It was a clean hit, but I felt I had to go in there and defend my teammate," Laperriere said. "I felt I had to respond and I had to show Smytty that I'll back him up in that situation."

It's worth asking "where were the Habs?" after Tuesday night's hit, although the answer could easily be "stunned." Will we say the same on March 24 when the Bruins and Canadiens play again?

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