Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Year of the Concussion continues

The latest victim to be maimed is Max Pacioretty who suffered a concussion and fractured vertebrae (no dislocation) at the hands of Zdeno Chara. He too is gone for the rest of the season if not longer.

I admit the circumstances here are different. The two players interacted in a location of the rinks which clearly is recognized to be more hazardous. The hit from Chara caused Pacioretty's head to crash into the stanchion between the benches. Had this hit occurred elsewhere on the ice the results would have been different.

The reaction by the on ice officials and the league head office is what leaves me puzzled. Mike Murphy ruled that no suspension was warranted because it was a "hockey play", Charo didn't leave his feet when he made the hit, Charo didn't aim for his head, and Charo has a clean 13 year record. This was a simple interference penalty that unfortunately had a bad outcome because of the stanchion Pacioretty hit.

Then why did the on ice official hand Charo a match penalty and a game misconduct if it was just interference? How does Murphy know for sure there was no malice on the part of Chara? The previous Bruin-Canadiens game was a 60 minute brawl and at one point Pacioretty had crosschecked Chara who then went after the Canadiens forward. How do we know for sure this hit wasn't at least part payback? And at 6'9" if Chara had left his feet to make the hit he would have landed in the 5th row behind the benches.

Chara is always used an example of why you can't ban head hits because it would be unfair to larger players. So why is it not considered unfair to shorter players who have to take hits to the head from larger opponents? My view is that every player has an obligation to avoid hits to the head. It might be more difficult for Chara but so be it.

As far as whether Chara deserved a fine or suspension, I'm ambivalent at this point. These penalties are not deterrents. They aren't even slaps on the wrist. Each week the number of players out of the lineup with concussions grows. The league has failed its players and fans on this front. A 4 game suspension to Chara isn't going to make a difference. Meanwhile a player is in Montreal General Hospital with his career and his health at risk.

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