5:10: On Wednesday night, Zdeno Chara collided with Max Pacioretty of the Montreal Canadiens along the boards and was punished with a five minute major for interference and ejected from the game. Pacioretty was rushed to the hospital where it was revealed yesterday that he has a severe concussion and a fractured fourth vertebrae. Also yesterday, the NHL ruled that Chara would face no punishment for the collision.
Initial reactions mostly seemed to agree that Chara’s hit, though unfortunate, was not a dirty play. However, since news of Pacioretty’s injury and the NHL’s ruling have leaked, outrage over the incident has increased.
Pacioretty himself thought Chara targeted his head while Chara has repeatedly claimed the incident was an accident.
Outside of the media, Montreal police have launched an investigation of the incident and Air Canada has threatened to pull its NHL sponsorship if the league doesn’t tighten its rules against head shots. Commissioner Gary Bettman dismissed the threat, and hasn’t spoken publicly in response to the incident.
The lack of punishment has irked many in Montreal, including Canadiens owner Geoff Molson who issued a scathing letter directed at Bettman this afternoon. Molson wrote that the decision, “was one which shook the faith that we, as a community, have in this sport that we hold in such high regard.”
It’s unclear if or when Pacioretty will play hockey again, but this much is clear: his injury is the tipping point. The league has tried to strengthen its rules against head shots in the past, but nothing invokes change like an incident like this. The league can’t risk alienating sponsors or enraging owners over constant head injuries. At next week’s General Manager’s meeting, head shots will be a hotly discussed issues, and based on the events of this week, we’re in for some changes.
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