Chara not suspended for hit on Pacioretty
WILMINGTON — Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty remains in a Montreal hospital, reeling from a severe concussion and a nondisplaced fracture of the fourth cervical vertebra he suffered Tuesday night at the Bell Centre.
Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara was responsible for the injuries and paid the price that night. Chara was tagged with a five-minute interference major and a game misconduct in a game the Bruins would lose, 4-1.
But Chara was spared further discipline yesterday. Mike Murphy, the NHL’s senior vice president of hockey operations, ruled there was no basis for Chara to merit a suspension or fine. The Bruins captain is eligible to play tonight against Buffalo at TD Garden.
Murphy was responsible for the ruling, though senior executive vice president of hockey operations Colin Campbell usually handles all matters regarding discipline. Campbell is recused from any decision involving the Bruins because his son, Gregory Campbell, plays for the team.
“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,’’ Murphy said in a statement.
“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.’’
Pacioretty suffered what are likely season-ending injuries at 19:44 of the second period. Chara, attempting to cut Pacioretty off from the puck, rode the Montreal wing into the stanchion that separates the benches.
After impact, Pacioretty lost consciousness and was wheeled from the ice on a stretcher. Referee Eric Furlatt correctly ruled, under Rule 56, that Chara was guilty of interference. The puck was not near the play, and Pacioretty had a step on Chara.
Chara participated in a noon conference call with Murphy. Also on the call were Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli, Chara’s agent Matt Keator, and an NHL Players Association representative. Chara was asked to describe the play from his perspective. He reiterated that he was trying to make a physical play, but that he had no intention of injuring Pacioretty.
“It’s been hard,’’ said Chara, before the ruling was announced. “I obviously feel bad about what happened. I’m trying to make a strong hockey play and play hard. Unfortunately the player got hurt and I had to leave the game. It is in my mind.’’
Chara and Pacioretty have a history of tangles. On Jan. 8, Pacioretty scored the deciding goal in a 3-2 overtime victory in Montreal. After scoring, the 22-year-old from New Canaan, Conn., shoved Chara en route to a celebration with his teammates. Chara didn’t like the push and went after Pacioretty. Chara and Montreal’s Hal Gill were whistled for 10-minute misconduct penalties.
On Feb. 9, Chara and Pacioretty clashed again, this time at TD Garden. During a second-period melee that saw Bruins goalie Tim Thomas square off with counterpart Carey Price, Chara and Pacioretty exchanged jabs in a pileup.
During yesterday’s hearing, Chara’s unblemished history played a part in the decision. According to Keator, Chara had never participated in a disciplinary hearing before yesterday. He has never been suspended. Around the league, Chara has a reputation of being a clean player.
“This was a hockey play that resulted in an injury because of the player colliding with the stanchion, and then the ice surface,’’ Murphy said. “In reviewing this play, I also took into consideration that Chara has not been involved in a supplemental discipline incident during his 13-year career.’’
Had the incident taken place at any other part of the rink, Pacioretty might not have been injured.
“Glass, stanchions, doors are part of the game,’’ Chara said. “Players run into them.
“It’s just very, very unfortunate that a player got hurt. You have so many different occasions over the years. The percentage of players getting hurt is so slim and small. But they do happen.’’
Bruins coach Claude Julien also noted that Chara’s strength probably contributed to the degree of Pacioretty’s injuries.
“When you’re [6 feet 9 inches] and probably one of the strongest guys in the league, you can’t go out there and not utilize that to your advantage,’’ Julien said. “He plays hard. But at the same time, he plays clean.
“It’s already a challenge for a guy like him, at 6-9, to keep his elbows down. The minute he lifts them up a little bit, he hits guys in the head. He’s made a really good adjustment in regards to that.
“It’s always easy to criticize. It’s always easy to attack a guy. But if you take time to look at the situation and you take time to see what he has to go through, there’s always going to be a challenge for him — the big bully because he’s 6-9.
“He’s always been a clean player.’’
Gary Lunn, Canada’s minister of state for sport, voiced his concern over the incident.
“I was deeply concerned,’’ Lunn said in the House of Commons in response to an opposition lawmaker’s question yesterday. “We will do everything to ensure the NHL doesn’t allow this kind of action to continue.’’
Material from Bloomberg News was used in this report. Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.