Rant answers: Two sides to Zdeno Chara hit
March, 15, 2011
By Pierre LeBrun | ESPN.com
Something about the month of March and angry hockey fans. Terrific rants this week, people. Let's take a look:Caesar9682: I think it's really pathetic how Canadians are going after Zdeno Chara. I personally think the hit was clean, Max Pacioretty was a victim of his surroundings. If that same hit occurred along the boards, nothing would have happened. Arena safety should be the topic of concern, not Chara's hit.
And further, I think it's even more pathetic that Air Canada thinks it has a say in the way the sport is governed. If they don’t like it, the NHL can find someone else to take its place.
Finally, the fact that Montreal police think this is within their realm is completely absurd! Just because this happened to one of YOUR players you think you have the right to launch an investigation!?!?!? If this happened in Boston, I guarantee none of this would happen.
The league should not fold to all of this because Montreal fans think they own the game. There are 31 other cities in this league, all of which have a say!
spotter: I'll rant a bit about how you commentators think that Chara did nothing wrong. Everyone seems to agree that he should have been penalized for interference. 1) That means he clearly did something wrong. 2) He interfered with a player in a dangerous place. To borrow some terminology from football, hitting a "defenseless" player in certain ways is very dangerous. I'd think that interfering with a player in a dangerous place should also be viewed harshly as it can prevent the player from being able to handle the situation well.
Richard Wolowicz/Getty ImagesMontreal's Max Pacioretty was taken off on a stretcher after being hit into a stanchion by Boston's Zdeno Chara.
It used to be in hockey one had to keep his head on a "swivel," and if players got hit on their blind side, it was their fault. Now for safety sake a lot of people want to say that blind-side hits are bad because players won't know they are coming and can't protect themselves. I think interference in dangerous areas can be just as bad.
My take: Well, you just saw two opposite reactions to the same hit and that's essentially what transpired throughout the hockey world both in the media and among fans. It's a debatable hit. Both sides have legitimate arguments, that's why it was such a polarizing debate. On one hand, you can argue with some merit that Chara had a history with Pacioretty and video shows the big man shoving the Montreal forward's head in the stanchion. On the other hand, there is equal merit that the play happened in 1.2 seconds, Chara in no way had time to plan it out that perfectly and he was just finishing out a normal hockey play that turned bad in the end result. I’m on record saying I don't think Chara had malicious intent and that I'm obviously sick at the end result, the sight of Pacioretty lying on the ice motionless and the ensuing serious injuries. I would have given Chara a two-game suspension, but Mike Murphy's explanation was solid. As Ryan Smyth said to me last week, having been the victim of a similar check into a stanchion three years ago, he doesn't think for a second Chara planned it because half a second before or half a second after and the play is nothing. I think Smyth knows what he's talking about more than a lot of people, since he lived it. Having said that, it remains a hit where I can find merit in both sides of the argument.
mochabacon: Why hasn't Hulsizer put up more money to buy the Coyotes? Everyone is blaming the Goldwater Institute for hurting the sale of the bonds, but if Hulsizer would just pay more for the team this whole situation wouldn't be happening. The NHL needs to fix this problem instead of pointing fingers like 8-year-olds, sell the team locally or move it somewhere else.
My take: You ask a legitimate question. The answer is that the team has lost a ton in that market over the past decade and will continue to lose money, which Hulsizer knows. So he's limiting his initial involvement because he knows he won't turn a profit there for a long time -- if ever. He's also a smart businessman who knew the City of Glendale was on its knees playing its last card and had no leverage. We'll see how this all plays out soon enough. If they can't sell the municipal bonds, the team is a goner.
Zot99: Pierre, I am sick and tired of the concussion blogs, columns and stories. First and obviously I am all for player safety, but I am fan of the physical nature of sports such as hockey. Hockey was and will always remain my first love. As a child in a home of zero sports fans it was the one sport to grab my attention. I remember the first game I watched and the first game I went to. Hockey had everything. The games were fast, psychological and entertaining. The players were tough, skilled and passionate. Now all of my fondest memories, all the things I loved, would be written about endlessly as what is wrong with the sport. Ron Hextall in this era would be vilified, at least half of Scott Stevens' hits would carry suspensions and the other half would be penalized by refs afraid to miss a call. Questionable hits and cheap shots used to have to be answered for by the players who delivered them. Now two guys who can't skate and should not even be in the league fight in their stead, if there is any response at all. Clearing the porch used to be a valuable and necessary job of the defenseman, now it's interference. Down six goals at home in the middle of the season in the '80s and early '90s, wait for the message to be sent to the other team, now turn the TV off. Now it is getting worse.
My take: I think you represent a lot of readers/fans with that comment. Believe me, you don't think I'm tired of writing about the issue, too? But as a hockey journalist, you can't pick and choose and just write about things that bring you joy. You think I enjoyed writing about the NHL lockout for 270-odd days in 2004-05 when I was still at the The Canadian Press national news agency? Of course not, but it needed to be done. And right now, concussions are a serious, serious issue in the sport of hockey. Some 80-odd players have suffered concussions this season in the NHL. That's an epidemic. Something has to be done. And that's what the NHL announced Monday in its five-point plan and that’s what GMs are trying to add to Tuesday and Wednesday in Boca Raton, Florida.
ksrook14: No love for Anze Kopitar. None. This guy's been carrying the offensive load for the Kings and playing Selke-worthy defense to boot. This guy is more valuable to his team than anyone else to their team. The flavor of the month is Jonathan Toews, but unlike Toews, Kopitar's supporting cast isn't Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa -- no disrespect to Dustin Brown, Justin Williams, Ryan Smyth (and now Dustin Penner). Unbelievable how little press this guy gets. East Coast bias all the way.
My take: Um, I'm guessing you didn't major in geography in college if you think Toews plays on the East Coast. But you make a valid point on Kopitar. He's been on fire in the second half for the Kings, and he's a big reason for their turnaround.
MSUSpartanX: Being a Detroit Red Wings fan, it is only natural for me to hate Sid the Kid. However, the news that he skated in full gear for the first time this morning is welcoming news. Any true hockey fan would see his positive impact on the game and embrace his return with open arms. He is a great player whose winning attitude would make any team better.
Feel better Sid, so I don't have to feel bad when the Wings and Penguins meet for the third time in four years in the Stanley Cup finals!
My take: This isn't a rant but I had to run it because I applaud the spirit of it. Well said, sir.
WingleBeast: All this about the Chara hit. Anyone remember Draper getting hit by Lemieux into the dasher in 1996? Lemieux got two games for hitting from behind. Detroit police didn’t start an "investigation." Were Wings fans pissed? Yes, but they took it out on the Avs for the next six years in one of the best rivalries in the game. Are head hits a problem? Yes. But don't you think this huge overreaction and blame game are equally as detrimental? The Islanders-Pens game was an example of over-the-top wannabe retribution. I'm sick of seeing a perfectly clean hit on a player, and his teammates feel the need to retaliate (see Kronwall-Havlat 2009). It's not just a lack of respect for the players, but more of a lack of respect for the game. I was always taught that if it wasn't dirty, then learn to take a hit, and learn how to avoid it next time. The pros are acting like poor sports.
My take: I mean, you can argue that the Chara hit wasn't even the worst last week, let alone this season! Pavel Kubina's elbow to the head of Dave Bolland the very next night was a clear head shot. Whereas you can argue both sides of the Chara hit, as I explained above, you can't argue in defense of Kubina at all. But to your point, there have been lots of hits and dirty plays in this league’s history that rank way worse. I mean, Marty McSorley two-handing Donald Brashear on the side of the head? The Broad Street Bullies essentially physically assaulting opposing players in the 1970s? The thing is, society's acceptance levels have shifted. Not just in hockey, but in all sports and all walks of life. What was deemed acceptable behavior 15, 30 years ago in the NHL just isn't anymore. And that's OK. It's called progress.
godogs2010: Mr. LeBrun, I'm so sick of ALL the excuses from and for the Flyers. Bottom line is that three quarters of the team hasn’t shown up lately and why should they? There Capt doesn't show up every night, every shift, so why should they? He should have never been giving the "C" so early on and his personality, demeanor and inconsistent play show that! Yeah, when Ritchie plays hard he is awesome, but problem is he needs to do it every night, not every five-six games. He sets the example and flow and right now he is a NO SHOW! Guys like Claude Giroux, Darroll Powe, Kimmo Timonen, Blair Betts and Ville Leino show up every night, every game, ALL YEAR LONG. Even Jeff Carter and Danny Briere woke back up and are playing hard. The defense was sooooooo overrated by YOU MEDIA PEOPLE, Sean O'Donnell is a dinosaur and at 39 is the weakest link on the team, Walker would have been in if he hadn't needed so much surgery. We have no true superstars and need to play a work-hard mentality in a system. It starts with the Capt or lack of Capt. Richards, wake up and stop acting as if you just got your lunch money stolen and stop crying! Get some gusto, get some toughness and stop looking like a cry baby when you interview. Show some anger, something! If they ALL played like Claude every night, we would be unstoppable!!!! Giroux take charge in the room and call people out. Thanks, Mr. LeBrun, I needed that.
My take: Great rant! I wrote about the Flyers last week after chatting with Briere, Chris Pronger and Brian Boucher. Given that Pronger himself had a postgame tirade last Tuesday night tells you that Flyers fans are warranted in their concern. They've developed sloppy habits over the last few weeks and need to get back to basics and pay the price to do things right. It'll be interesting to see how this plays out now. But I think they'll be fine.
gundy4jc: Why have I allowed myself to get sucked back into caring about how the Devils do every damn night? Seriously, having to go through the first three months of the season was so deflating, and now there is hope again. It's like getting dumped by your hot girlfriend, only to get her to start paying attention to you again. If the Devils don't make the playoffs, it would be like that same girl inviting you to a romantic getaway to make a "reconnection," and when you get there, she has already hooked up with the pool boy.
My take: This is me laughing so hard I busted a rib. Great post. And yes, despite the Devils being the hottest team in hockey in the second half, odds are they'll fall just short and break Devils fans hearts. Tough to take.
curtycurt1010: Pierre, why does the national media continually ignore the Nashville Predators?
Because no one wants to watch your dump and chase, cycle cycle cycle, hope for a good lucky bounce, neutral zone trapping boring style of hockey. Continually choking in the first round of the playoffs every ... single ... year. Is also not a good way to get national coverage either. Be a hockey fan first and realize that growing the game is more important than your own perception of lack of attention for your team. You have beat writers and a local newspaper to feed you your warped idea that your team is somehow relevant and going to win a Stanley Cup this year. Big market teams need to play on NBC, so they can get the viewership and catch the casual fans eye. See the bigger picture.
My take: Actually, Burnside and I write about the Predators on a solid basis. But your point in general is likely correct. They’re a small-market team without much fanfare. The work of David Poile and Barry Trotz continues to be out of this world. They deserve a ton of credit.