Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun question the thought process behind looking to file criminal charges against Zdeno Chara and wonder why there is no uproar over Pavel Kubina's elbow to the head of Dave Bolland.
Burnside: Well my friend, it's clear the Zdeno Chara/Max Pacioretty situation isn't going to go away easily. With the NHL ruling that Chara would not be fined or suspended, many, especially north of the border, are enraged that Chara has escaped unscathed. In a typically Canadian reaction, or certainly typically Quebec reaction, Montreal police are looking into the hit that left Pacioretty with a severe concussion and cracked vertebrae. This comes from senior civil servants who demanded the issue be examined with an eye to possible criminal charges being filed. Forgive me, but what a joke. No unsolved murders, assaults or break-ins in Montreal that they can spend time and taxpayer dollars to investigate whether a hockey player has run afoul for an on-ice play? Guaranteed if the roles were reversed and it was Chara injured there wouldn't have been a peep about this on your side of the border. Let me ask you: Which is more problematic for the NHL, the Chara incident or the elbow thrown by Tampa defenseman Pavel Kubina at the head of Chicago's Dave Bolland on Wednesday night?
LeBrun: Well, I certainly don't blame Habs fans for being upset, even if I'm not sure, no matter how many times you slow down the tape, you can prove Chara deserved to be banished for the hit. As I said yesterday, Scotty, I hate the result of the play and feel terrible for Pacioretty, but to me it didn't warrant more than a couple of games, if at all. I spoke with four NHL head coaches over the past 24 hours who completely agreed. But you understand how Montreal fans, easily the most passionate in the league, are upset, especially since it involves a player in Chara that they routinely booed every time he touched the puck the last few years, and that was before this! But for the Montreal police to get involved? Ridiculous. Chill out, people. Funny how another hit last night hasn't generated the same fuss. You mentioned Kubina's elbow on Bolland. I'm amazed that hasn't got more attention around the league. That was a brutal hit to the head and it got him a three-game suspension. The Blackhawks aren't sure when Bolland will be back.
Burnside: I understand the passion for the game in Montreal and across the province and the country. And I understand that fan loyalty often leads to blindness when it comes to making rational judgment. But what galls me is that politicians and civil servants and even airline officials want to horn in on the reflected limelight from what was a terrible incident. This has no business in a criminal court. And for a company like Air Canada, which has reportedly threatened its sponsorship over the NHL's ruling, those involved should be ashamed of themselves. In many ways, it merely reinforces the notion that Canada is a small, backwards little country with an unnatural affection for a game. As for the Kubina hit, absolutely this is far more troubling for the NHL, because it strikes at the heart of a number of issues: respect, blows to the head, unsuspecting victims. The Chara hit, as unfortunate as it was, is to me like a lightning strike, a horrible combination of bad timing and poor arena construction. The Kubina hit is the issue that deserves more attention, but because it didn't happen in Canada to a player on a Canadian team, it gets overshadowed. Sad.
LeBrun: Scotty, calm down on the Canada-bashing, buddy. If it wasn't for Canada's passion and support of the game of hockey, there would not be an NHL. So let's get that straight before you bury the Great White North with a wide brush. But like you, I laughed at Air Canada's venture into hockey politics. You would think the airline would be more concerned about getting its own house in order before poking its nose in the NHL's affairs. What bothers me, too, is where exactly was Air Canada's disgust with the NHL when the game's best player suffered a head shot? Listen, I feel terrible for Pacioretty, a victim of a controversial hit gone horribly wrong. But for Air Canada or the Montreal police to get involved? Wake up, people.
Burnside: OK. I've been breathing deeply. All good. Hey, no one is saying Pacioretty deserved what happened -- at least that's not where I'm coming from -- but it is a bit rich, the outrage coming from various quarters of the hockey world, mostly north of the border. It will be interesting to see when the GMs meet in Boca Raton, Fla., next week how much debate the Chara hit generates. I am guessing that there will be far more discussion on the Kubina hit and how supplemental discipline is handed out on plays like that regardless of how many airlines or donut shops howl out their disapproval.
LeBrun: If there's any good at all that might come out of the Chara/Pacioretty fallout, it is indeed that it will add to the importance of GMs getting their heads together next week (no pun intended) and once again trying to figure out what has been an epidemic when it comes to head injuries. You know Penguins GM Ray Shero will come armed and ready to voice his concerns after losing Sidney Crosby. Habs GM Pierre Gauthier will also be ready to have his voice heard. And I know from speaking with a league source Thursday that the GMs' agenda is incredibly stacked with head shots/concussion-related material, so the league isn't shying away from once again having the discussion. The challenge now is to do something meaningful about it, because Rule 48 isn't enough.
In the meantime, it would also be nice to know where new NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr stands on all this. He needs to show leadership on this issue. He's been way too quiet. This isn't just a league problem; the players' association must make itself heard on this.