NHL’s reasons for not suspending Zdeno Chara are faulty

This article was originally on a blog post platform and may be missing photos, graphics or links. See About archive blog posts.

So it was a “hockey play” when Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara used his left arm to push the head of Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty into a stanchion Tuesday night and cause an impact that left Pacioretty in the hospital with a concussion and fractured vertebra?

A “hockey play” for Chara to come in late and use his left arm to guide Pacioretty’s head into a hard, unforgiving surface?


Since when?

Since Wednesday, when the NHL announced it would not fine or suspend Chara for a reckless, needless and dangerous action that will cost Pacioretty the rest of his season. Heaven only knows whether it will also cost Pacioretty his career.

Mike Murphy was the NHL’s lord of discipline in this case because Colin Campbell’s son, Gregory, plays for the Bruins and Campbell had to recuse himself from the decision-making process. All Murphy did was prove that he, too, can issue rulings that make the NHL’s disciplinary procedures deplorably inconsistent and irrational.

In a statement released by the NHL, Murphy said he conducted a hearing with Chara, who was assessed a major penalty for interference and game misconduct immediately after the incident.

“After a thorough review of the video I can find no basis to impose supplemental discipline,” Murphy said. “This hit resulted from a play that evolved and then happened very quickly -- with both players skating in the same direction and with Chara attempting to angle his opponent into the boards. I could not find any evidence to suggest that, beyond this being a correct call for interference, that Chara targeted the head of his opponent, left his feet or delivered the check in any other manner that could be deemed to be dangerous.

“This was a hockey play that resulted in an injury because of the player colliding with the stanchion and then the ice surface. In reviewing this play, I also took into consideration that Chara has not been involved in a supplemental discipline incident during his 13-year NHL career.”

So because Chara had never been punished before means he should not have been punished now? Nonsense. Chara isn’t a goon. He isn’t evil. But he is guilty in this case of poor judgment that gravely harmed an opponent, and that must count for something for players and fans to have any faith in the league.

Chara is responsible for his actions every minute he’s on the ice. Whether merely with intent to finish his check, get back at Pacioretty for past offenses or spare himself the embarrassment of having Pacioretty get around him, Chara used his arm to push Pacioretty in a dangerous manner and in a dangerous spot. If Pacioretty hadn’t hit the stanchion he still might have suffered a concussion from the whiplash effect of having his head pushed forward.

This was not a hockey play. Not the way hockey should be played, certainly.

-- Helene Elliott