Chara Shouldn’t Be Blamed

With 16 seconds remaining in the second period of Tuesday’s Montreal Canadiens-Boston Bruins, Zdeno Chara leveled Max Pacioretty into the boards at center ice near both teams benches.

In addition to the hit, Pacioretty’s head made contact with the dividing glass between the benches causing him to to drop to the ice. Pacioretty appeared to lay motionless for an extended period of time before he was taken off the ice on a stretcher.

By now, everyone has seen the video and reactions from both teams about the hit and calls for a safer NHL. Even the Montreal Police laughably launched an investigation into the matter along with Air Canada threatening the NHL with pulling their sponsorship as a response to this incident.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s response to Air Canada

“Air Canada is a great brand, as is the National Hockey League,” said Bettman. “And if they decide that they need to do other things with their sponsorship dollars, that is their prerogative, just that it is the prerogative of our clubs that fly on Air Canada to make other arrangements if they don’t think Air Canada is not giving them the appropriate level of service.”

Re-hashing the event any further is pretty pointless as is offering opinion on whether a non suspension for Chara was the right course of action. The real problem here is not the hit. The problem is the way the Bell Centre’s dividing glass between the two benches was constructed. It’s clear from the video of the part of the rink where Pacioretty’s head made contact prior to dropping to the ice has no give whatsoever.

This isn’t the first time something like this has happened, however. Back in 2003 the Vancouver Canucks took on the St. Louis Blues in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. One of the factors that turned the tide for the Canucks against the Blues occurred during Game 2 of this series held in Vancouver.

Canucks forward Todd Bertuzzi leveled Blues defenseman Al MacInnis into the corner boards injuring MacInnis’s shoulder in the process. This injury took MacInnis out of that playoff series (he attempted to play in Game 7 of that series but was rendered useless due to the severity of his shoulder injury).

It’s not the hit that is important here. It was the fact that the hit was the result of the corner boards at General Motors Place (now called Rogers Arena) being wedged right up against the arena seating foundation. Like the Bell Centre dividing glass, this part of the boards in Vancouver did not have any give (this problem has since been fixed at Rogers Arena) and only amplified the severity of MacInnis’s injury.

What everyone should be addressing here is not the severity of Chara’s hit on Pacioretty or the need to pull sponsorships or even make the game of hockey safer. What everyone should be addressing right now is where Pacioretty got hit and making that part of the arena safer moving forward as the Canucks have with their corner boards.

I’ve been reading the press from both sides of the proverbial coin and I’m still wondering why this fact about the dividing glass hasn’t been addressed by….well….anyone.

So what can be done moving forward? Short of a total re-construction of that area, an announcement by the Canadiens of plans to redesign the glass bench dividers to have some give would be a tremendous start. If teams like the Habs and the NHL sincerely want to provide the best arenas in the world for the best hockey players in the world, making sure the dividing glass between the two benches in places like the Bell Centre have more give is something that needs to be addressed immediately.

Yes, professional hockey is a dangerous sport. We all get that. However, at that moment in time Tuesday night the most dangerous aspect of that hit was not Chara, it was the Bell Centre rink. If the Canadiens really want to do the right thing, they need to remove the glass Pacioretty’s head hit and put new glass between the benches that have some give.


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2 Responses to “Chara Shouldn’t Be Blamed”

  1. Jay MF
    March 12, 2011 at 8:22 pm #

    If there was a dangerous obstacle on my job-sight, WCB would be all over it and have the hazard removed! I do feel that the steps that have been taken to eliminate dangerous hits from the game are a step in the right direction, and there will always be those in the heat of the game that will push it past the limit, the next step is to legislate our athletes a safe work environment. Now it is up to the engineers to come up with a solution that works for everybody.

  2. Puck Sage
    March 14, 2011 at 2:59 am #

    Good article, I may do a post on this this week. I have an idea, but here I just do my weekly playoff look, I’ll probably post it over at my blog…