Fan vs Fan

Friday, March 18, 2011

An Editorial From Matt...Not A Humor Post

I read a lot of hockey blogs. I also read a lot of hockey websites. I think it's safe to say I probably have too much hockey in my life. My dad jokes that I "majored in hockey, with a minor in academics" at university. Go figure. Now, I'm double majoring in Political Science and Psychology, with concentrations in Political and Legal Theory and Cognitive Personality Development and Disorders, digest that for a second, I know it's a lot.

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.


  1. The idea of "intent" is an interesting one and injuries that result from a situation in which the intent to injure may not be there at least involve carelessness, which should be penalized. DGS's post partially dealt with the idea of carelessness involving one player injuring another (assuming the idea of intent was not there). An interesting spin off of this idea involves the idea of carelessness in physical injuries in the NHL in which the victim is at least largely responsible for his own injury. A relevant case study to consider is Ian Laperriere. Twice, Laperriere took a puck to the face which resulted in traumatic injuries. Questions to be considered include 1. Who's at fault? 2. Should the guilty party(ies) be penalized? 3. Should rules be implemented to prevent similar occurrences? Regarding question 1. Lappy was at fault for both of his injuries. For the 1st injury, perhaps it can be argued that Lappy sliding across the ice on his knees made him more conspicuous and that the entire event took place more slowly than did Lappy's 2nd injury and thus the injurer was also at fault since he proceeded with the slapshot. For the 2nd injury, Lappy slid on his stomach, like many other players (Timonen) do often and as a result, perhaps his 2nd injury can be regarded as a freak accident in which Lappy is solely at fault. Regarding question 3. rules should be in place disallowing players (excluding the goalie) from sacrificing their bodies/faces etc Not that there is a huge league-wide problem with a whole slew of players doing this, but there was a problem with 1 player. Also, the new regulations that would prohibit players from sacrificing their bodies like that should include the prohibition of players sliding on their stomachs to block shots (I never liked how players do this to begin with and so far Timonen has been a relatively lucky man...) With regards to question 2. the victim of such occurrences would always be at fault and thus should be penalized in accordance with rules that prohibit such behavior. I understand that whatever penalty a victim would receive would probably be negligible compared to the physical injury they receive and its affect on their career. Thus, the penalty should hurt the victim's team in some way, such as the other team getting a powerplay or being able to play with a 2 man advantage for some time. The presence of the rule and the penalty that upholds it would prevent players from saying "I did it for the team," or "I did it for hockey," when it hurts your team and hockey explicitly forbids you to do it. So, players who sacrifice themselves would have no excuse. With regards to the injurer and potential penalties on him Lappy's 2nd injury can be taken as an example. In this case, Lappy decided to slide at the very last moment of the shot and defensive players perform that kind of maneuver all the time. So, the injurer, Martin, should not be at fault and should not receive a penalty. In other words, not only did Martin lack intent, but the carelessness manifested was not his own; it was a "learned" carelessness taught by the league and familiarity of the sliding defensive maneuver. Taking Lappy's 1st injury into consideration, perhaps the injurer did not intend to hurt Lappy, but carelessness should also be penalized and the argument that the injurer should be penalized in this case would be stronger than it would be for Lappy's other injury. Ultimately, the league should have rules that regulate occurrences similar to Lappy's self-sacrificing, selflessness, and carelessness. It is not every day that a player sacrifices himself and as a result receives a serious injury from getting hit in the face with a puck, but it is also not every day that a player is careless enough to not fully realize his physical surroundings and slam another player's head into the boards. Perhaps a final question to consider: how much regulation is too much regulation?


  2. You've made some valid points and the play was totally unethical. This player in turn was seriously injured as a result.