For classes in both fields, I've studied different forms of justice as well as the consequences of brain injuries, which brings me to feeling the need to write this post. I like to think that this classroom experience makes me somewhat informed on the topic. I'll avoid the word "expert" to avoid the urge to call out Andy Sutton at this point.
Needless to say this means that I see a lot of opinions on different things. From every little controversy from any supposed dirty hit to the charity point to the shootout to anything you can possibly think of, I've read about it, tweeted about it and probably put it on the list as a possible future podcast topic.
Now the charity point, shootout and what not have a lot of detractors and all, but honestly at the end of the day, they exist and there is no imminent threat to player safety in them so no real priority to change them, but I hope that they're eliminated in the future for a better tie-breaker scheme, or just give us ties again.
"Dirty" hits is why I'm writing this post. Brain injury issues are why I'm writing the post. The NHL's idiocy with regards to player safety is why I'm writing this post. So with that, let's begin an intelligent, intellectual, common sense based breakdown of the proper way to handle discipline in the league by crafting a model of how to properly discipline offenders.
Note: I'm not posting the videos, we've all seen them enough, if you need to look at them again, use google.
Zdeno Chara hits Max Pacioretty.
Chara and Max are chasing a puck near the wall, Max Pac chips it in and Chara finishes off Max Pac near the boards, Max Pac's head bounces off the stanchion, breaking his neck and leaving him with a severe concussion, Chara was assessed a major penalty and game misconduct on the play but not given any supplementary discipline. Oh yeah, the Montreal police are looking into this.
Grading the NHL's Response: F- if that's possible.
Why: Most people who support the NHL's decision to not suspend Chara say it's because of 1 or more of the following 3 things.
1. Anywhere else on the ice, the hit wouldn't have been as bad because the stanchion wouldn't have hit patches.
2. Chara had no intent to injure Max Pac/results shouldn't dictate discipline.
3. It's part of a hockey play and finishing your check, which is what the NHL said in their statement.
All 3 of these viewpoints have major logical flaws which I will now expose.
3. It's part of a hockey play and finishing your check
This is probably the easiest of the three to debunk. How is finishing a check on a player 30 feet away from the puck a hockey play. The answer is, it's not. For proof, let's go to the NHL rulebook shall we.
Rule 56.1 Interference states
Body Position: Body position shall be determined as the player skating in front of or beside his opponent, traveling in the same direction. A player who is behind an opponent, who does not have the puck, may not use his stick, body or free hand in order to restrain his opponent, but must skate in order to gain or reestablish his proper position in order to make a check.Chara does not have body position and therefore under Rule 56.1, he is guilty of interference. So now that he's been found guilty, let's look at the punishment.
Rule 56.4 Interference Major Penalty stats
Major Penalty - The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a major penalty, based on the degree of violence, to a player guilty of interfering with an opponent (see 56.5)
I would say, based on the fact that Pacioretty was unconscious for several minutes, suffered a severe concussion and broke his neck, YES the C4 is part of your neck, that this hit had a major worthy degree of violence. So, now that we can safely say, the call on the ice was correct.
However, the decision to impose supplemental discipline was wrong. See, THIS WAS NOT A HOCKEY PLAY. If it were a hockey play, then WHY WAS IT CALLED INTERFERENCE! Simple, hockey plays are LEGAL hockey plays, by calling something ILLEGAL like interference, the NHL defined this play as NOT being a hockey play. It's not that hard to follow.
Ok well then, what about intent?
Intent is a little harder to prove. Tanner Glass of Vancouver said that any NHL player would know the rink and know exactly what was happening there. I believe him, as someone who's played hockey for years, I know my way around and Chara's played far longer and at far higher levels than I ever did, or probably ever will.
Did Chara have intent, is the question at hand? The answer is yes, yes he did.
Chara had something called implied intent. Implied intent basically means that once you commit an illegal act, in Chara's case, interference, you are fully responsible for any and all consequences, in Chara's case- Max Pac's injuries.
For instance, when driving a car, if you run a stop sign and then hit another car causing damage, the driver of the car that ran the stop sign would be the one who caused of the accident. Not only that, but their penalty and charges would be based on the amount of damage caused.
BUT MATT?!?! These are pro athletes, not hardened criminals:
Ok, fine, but in any just and modern society, there is a governing body that has the responsibility to insure that the its members are protected. The NHL commissioner's office (Bettman, Colie and crew) have that responsibility, and if they don't then, I'm ok with the police getting involved because SOMEONE needs to make sure the players are protected. The NHLPA has a reason to get involved as well, because it's kind of obvious that allowing hits like this one and others because the NHL's lack of movement on the issue has created an unsafe working condition for the players.
This starts with making the rinks safer, eliminate the between the benches stanchion. In the words of Mike Milbury, "no one cares if Pierre McGuire gets hit." And that's kind of true, Pierre can do his broadcasting thing from somewhere else.
3. Anywhere on the ice and this hit is harmless.
Irrelevant. If you crashed your car and hit a parked car, would you tell the courts "anywhere else on the road and I don't hit that car?" and expect to get away with it? Exactly. It's poor logic and horribly flawed.
Hits and incidents happen where they happen, not where they "could have happened" and justice should be served as such. There is a reason why justice systems in reasonable societies are based off these ideas, it's because they are fair and they work.
Yes, players are responsible for their own actions, I've said that before. However, players are NOT the judge, jury and executioners of justice- that's the NHL, that's Gary Bettman, Colin Campbell and the crew's job to determine. Their job is to not only enforce off ice justice, but also to make sure that justice is handed out in a logical and fair manner, Bettman has failed miserably at this, so has the NHL.