Thursday, March 10, 2011

Chara/Pacioretty - Intent Irrelevant

Did Zedeno Chara intend to throw Max Pacioretty into the stanchion?  Was his intent to hurt Pacioretty or was it just a horrible accident?  Those are the big questions that people have been debating and arguing over since Tuesday night when one of the most controversial hits in recent NHL history occurred.

These questions, while providing good talking points, completely overlook the real issue here: why does intent matter?  

I find it really difficult to understand why people are arguing whether Chara intended to hit Pacioretty into the stanchion as if it matters or not.  Who cares whether he meant to do it?  The real issue is that Chara committed an illegal hit that resulted in a player being knocked unconscious and having his neck broken.  Whether Chara meant for this to happen is completely irrelevant and should have no bearing on the NHL decision of whether or not to suspend him.

The NHL obviously feels differently as they didn't suspend Chara for a single game and are letting the one game misconduct penalty handed out by the referee suffice as his punishment, which is a complete joke.  The NHL felt that Chara did not intend to hurt Pacioretty and since he doesn't have a history of Chara being a dirty player the league decided that the hit didn't merit any sort of a long suspension. 

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was in Washington this week addressing Congress on the issue of head shots and concussions in the NHL and had this to say about the hit, "Our hockey operations people are extraordinarily comfortable with the decision that they made. It was a horrific injury, we're sorry that it happened in our fast-paced physical game, but I don't think whether or not supplemental discipline was imposed would change what happened and in fact the people in the game who I have heard from almost to a person ... believe that it was handled appropriately by hockey operations."

Can this moron just resign already?  How can you have a player in your league almost die on the ice and not do anything about it and then justify it to the public by saying 'oh it was just an accident'?  No one is saying you need to drag Chara over the coals and make him out to be a goon or anything but at least give him a game or two to show that you take the safety of your players seriously.  

But back to the main issue, intent.  On every radio/television show covering the hit and on every forum or comment board the same sentence is being used over and over again, 'I don't think Chara intended to hurt him...'  This is the same argument people used against Todd Bertuzzi when he nearly killed Steve Moore.  Did he mean to break Steve Moore's neck? Probably not no but he did and so therefore he was punished.  Why is does that same logic not apply to this incident?

The NHL could save itself so much bad publicity if it would only make a universal rule that saved them from all the headaches of having to deal with hits like as isolated incidents.  Here I will do it for them in under 45 seconds:

- If you hit a player illegally and they are injured as a result you are suspended X number of games
- If you hit a player in the head you get X number of games
- If you hit a player from behind you get X number of games
- After each suspension X gets multiplied by 2
- You get 3 strikes and then you're out of the league

How hard was that?  Now the NHL doesn't have to worry about deciding intent or not, the only thing you need to determine is whether the hit was legal or illegal which should be easy enough considering there is a standard rulebook which defines that for the league.  You can't tell me that wouldn't simply the whole thing and get rid of all this ridiculous debate about whether Chara knew where he was one the ice.

The fact that Chara didn't get a suspension is beyond ridiculous.  Look at this picture and tell me that he shouldn't have at least gotten 1 game:

The NHL should do itself a favor and stop trying to worry about whether a player meant to injure someone or not.  They should focus on protecting their players and ensuring that someone doesn't die on the ice because of a illegal hit.  

So did Chara mean to do it?  Irrelevant.  The only question that matters is 'did he do it?'

Random YouTube Video


White Nebula said...

Your proposed rules are OK... but without them in place, there is no reason to discipline Chara for the hit that happened under the current rules. I think a good addition to this post would be that the NHL should take action... not against Chara, but towards redesigning this very dangerous area of the rink. It should have been done before now. Pacioretty was not the first player to be injured on these stanchions.

Anonymous said...

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