It was announced today, that Zdeno Chara would not be charged for his hit on Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty. Outraged fans, egged on by irresponsible ratings whores like Tony Marinaro, paralyzed the cities police force fielding hundreds of calls in the wake of an unfortunate play that was not deemed worthy of suspension. The hit did propel sweeping structural changes around the NHL, and Pacioretty has not only made a full recovery, and stated he didn’t feel charges were justifiable, but gone from cog to cornerstone of the team.
The Connecticut native is one of a number of Americans propping the team up. His eight goals through the first eighteen games leads the boys of the Belle Centre. His assist total brings him to second in points on the team. The +4 that goes with these, is five higher than it was last season, and he’s doing it all in two full minutes more per game. At this Pacioretty stands a good chance of doubling last years numbers in the same number of games.
As good as it is for Zdeno Chara and his family, friends, team and fans that there will be no charges, and to see Pacioretty not just recover but thrive, this is possibly the best day sports have seen in the halls of law in decades. The precedent that would have been set if this had resulted in charges is so inimical to sports both organized and casual that it can not be overstated. If contact sports suddenly become subject to regular criminal charges for in game behavior, law enforcement becomes another tool for winning and everyone loses. Boxing and mixed martial arts would become impossible to maintain. Football and rugby would be gone in a flash.
Referee manipulation is something that already happens in sports. Certain star quarterbacks in the NFL can get calls their way just for gesturing at the officials. Diving in hockey is so much a part of the culture on certain teams that eradicating it would take years. Imagine how much worse things would be if Eli Manning could whistle up the state police between downs to have whichever defensive lineman hit him dragged off for hitting him “too hard” or if Alex Burrows or other gifted actors demanded the police remove a visiting player for a devastating hit.
How deep would teams rosters need to be just to play a week? How deep would they need to be too make it a season? How much money would companies like Reebok and Under Armour lose terminating endorsement deals on a regular basis? Given the inefficiency of the legal process, how long would players have to wait in jail before their trials? Even the ones released might lose their ability to travel between states or back and forth across international borders.
Say what you will about the hit. You can hate it. You can believe it was indeed a criminal act. It doesn’t matter. If you enjoy contact sports; football, hockey, soccer, lacrosse, rugby or any of the rest this is your victory as much as it is Zdeno Chara’s. Today men and women can breathe a sigh of relief as a threat to the income of thousands of people across two countries tied together by the NHL and all the programs that feed into and from it have a threat to their way of life put aside.