NHL

Players continue to weigh in on Pacioretty-Chara incident

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TSN.ca Staff
3/10/2011 6:37:19 PM
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A day after the NHL's controversial decision not to suspend Zdeno Chara for his hit on Max Pacioretty, reaction from across the country continued to filter in - from as high up as the leader of the country, and back to fans in the streets.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he is concerned about the growing number of injuries in the NHL, saying the league needs to take a serious look at the issue, "for its own sake."

The frustration started in the Canadiens' locker room after players learned that Chara was not suspended.

"I think the league missed an opportunity to make a stand. I know both players," said goaltender Alex Auld. "I know Zdeno personally and know he's not a mean guy but at the same time, those things happen and you have to be accountable too."

Canadiens captain Brian Gionta said the team felt helpless with the decision.

"We're obviously in disagreement and disappointed," he said. "It's a situation that's tough to see happen to one of your guys. It's disappointing nothing more has come of it, but there's nothing we can do about it.

"You're responsible for your actions out there. Whether it's him or somebody else or one of us, at the end of the day, you're responsible for what you do out there. And obviously, things that come from that, the consequences that come from it."

Late in the second period of Tuesday's Bruins-Canadiens game in Montreal, Chara checked a fast-skating Pacioretty along the boards at centre ice. The check sent Pacioretty head first into a glass divider between the benches. He lay motionless on the ice, and needed to be taken off on a stretcher.

Pacioretty suffered a severe concussion and a non-displaced fractured fourth cervical vertebra in his neck.

Chara received a five-minute major penalty for interference and a game misconduct.

Other players were divided in their assessment of the situation. While they agreed that it was a horrible incident, many felt that Chara's intent was not to injure the Canadiens forward.

"I see both sides of it," said Maple Leafs forward Clarke MacArthur. "The guy broke his neck, and there's no punishment. I don't know what that says. I feel bad for the guy, he gets a massive concussion and a broken neck and there's absolutely no suspension at all. I don't know, that's a tough call."

"Obviously, Pacioretty is a fast player and Chara is a big guy and he's trying to get his body up along the boards there, to close him off," added Maple Leafs defenceman and former Chara teammate Mike Komisarek. "There's definitely interference on the play. Whether he knew the turnbuckle was there and tried to drive his head, I don't know if he was trying to do that."

"If the exact same hit is on the other side of the rink, there's nothing. It's a clean hit, and we wouldn't be talking about it right now," said Penguins defenceman Deryk Engelland. "It's a partition in the glass, and it's going to happen here and there."

On Wednesday, the league announced that Chara would not face further discipline for his hit, as NHL vice-president of hockey operations Mike Murphy said that the league could find no basis to impose supplemental discipline.

"It was an accident. Accidents happen. He was just in the wrong area on the rink, and there were a bunch of variables (coming) together and he ended up banging his head on the glass," said Maple Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul. "Everybody feels bad about it and is sorry. I'm sure if Chara had to do it over again, he obviously wouldn't have pushed him.

"Only he truly knows what he was doing, but just looking at the tape there's nothing there that I don't think you can throw a suspension his way, because it looks like an accident. I don't think it's an area for criminal prosecution or anything. I guess then you could turn around and file against the Bell Centre too for having that piece of glass there. I mean, when does it stop?"

The players also agreed that Montreal police investigating the incident was taking things a little too far.

"I feel bad for Pacioretty and his family," said Flyers forward Daniel Briere. "I know if I was in the same situation, or my son was in the same situation, I'd probably want a little more severe reaction from the league. But the game is played fast, everything happens fast. It's really tough to tell if he meant it or not. As far as the police getting involved? That seems a little excessive."

Auld tried to make some positive light out of the situation, hoping that at least some awareness for dangerous injuries was raised.

"I don't think there's many people that really – definitely on our team – that agree that enough was done. At the same time you have to look at the big picture, that things are moving in the right direction," said Auld. "The fact we're discussing it and there is controversy about it can be seen as a good sign. But at the same time, I'm sure that's little solace for Max and his family."

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