Let’s start with the important stuff:
I was very glad to hear Max Pacioretty was moving and speaking at the hospital. In the five + seasons Zdeno Chara has been in a Boston uniform, I have bought four jerseys, one another defensemen, none of them his. I have also played sports and been knocked out, as well as having been in car accidents. In his eleven year, nearly thousand game career Zdeno Chara has been suspended, just once, for one game for an incident during a fight.
Before looking at the video, lets do our due diligence and look at what’s going on, and where the players are looking before and after the contact is made. Chara and Pacioretty are looking at each other before contact. After contact Chara is looking forward for the puck, and the play.
Next, one should consider the physics involved. The two are skating, at a good clip, neither is exactly the fastest skater in the NHL, but for the sake of discussion we’ll say 15 miles per hour. Pacioretty is 6’2 and listed at 196lbs. Chara is 6’9 and listed at 255. My math says that the difference is over 1/3rd of Pacioretty’s total body weight.
Last thing to examine is emotion, or as some might phrase it in cases like this, intent. Chara, is yapping, Pacioretty is yapping, both are skating. Neither has started engaging in the spears, slashes, punches, facewashes and other behavior that indicate severe frustration in hockey players. Neither was slowing or clutching at the other in prelude to a fight. When we see Chara immediately after the hit, there is none of the tell tale signs we’ve all seen when Chara pops his top.
One other thing, Zdeno Chara has been on the ice when his teammates have been seriously injured. He’s witnessed Quebec’s own Patrice Bergeron get concussed twice. He’s witness Marc Savard get concussed, he saw David Krejci get smashed by Adam Mair, he was front row for Andrew Alberts getting blasted while making a play from his knees.
So here’s the video:
So what did we see? We saw Pacioretty and Chara skating along the boards, neither one paying attention to anything but each other. We see Pacioretty start in Chara’s direction. We then see Chara counter hit, with again his greater mass, and see Chara continue skating toward the action.
My background education is in psychology. And I have quite a temper myself. Of all the things I can tell you that are relevant to both of those and this incident, I can tell you that that when I, and most people are ticked off enough to intentionally harm another, we want to watch. We can’t help it. We know when we’ve done it, and we tend to put a good deal of effort into it.
So, let’s look again. Chara extended his arms not his whole body, no stick, no skate on skate contact and above all no head contact. You saw Zdeno Chara keep skating forward without ever pausing. Now, since we’ve all seen Chara fight before after losing his cool, and we’ve seen when the officials keep him from going at it with other players. In all of those cases Chara has attention for nothing other than going hard towards the puck and the play.
So in review:
- No history of discipline not directly related to a fight, and none at all in the past five years.
- Chara has repeated close, personal experience with players getting bad head injury.
- Physics (speed and mass differential) dictate that contact at this point will unfavorable to Pacioretty.
- Pacioretty made the initial move towards contact.
- Despite the more than half foot of height difference with the larger player reaching down to contact, there is no head contact.
- Chara did not put his full weight, stick, body or attentioninto the contact.
- Chara was not focused on Pacioretty after contact.
While people up and down Twitter, and no doubt other social media have compared this to the Bertuzzzi incident of years ago, its hard to find any real parallel. What happened was unfortunate, no question about it. Had the hit happened three strides further back, or three strides forward no one would have noticed anything other than Chara accumulating yet another career hit. I can understand the interference call, even the major. A suspension would be curious for a routine hit, in an unfortunate location when both players are moving at full speed.