Montreal - Mar. 10, 2011 - 11:45 PM - March 9th
I feel sick today. Sick because of an overwhelming sense of helplessness and hopelessness. Helpless knowing that a 23 year old native of New England (yes, he's one of yours, Boston) lies in a hospital after coming this close to losing his life because of a ridiculous blood feud that started when he had the audacity to apparently challenge the manhood of Zdeno Chara. Hopeless, utterly hopeless, knowing that anybody in a position of power in the NHL simply doesn't give a s**t.
Spare me the phoney concern, if there actually is any right now. Was there any remorse exhibited by Chara who, for the umpteenth time, preferred to take the coward's way out of a post game media session? He had to be dragged off the team bus in the garage of the Bell Centre before trying to explain that what happened was an "unfortunate" accident and that he never "tries to hurt anybody" (eerily similar to Todd Bertuzzi's tear -filled "I don't play that way" statement following his mugging of Steve Moore that ended Moore's career seven years ago to the day). And what in Colin Campbell's name is Mike Murphy doing at the NHL office in Toronto, trying to explain away a non - suspension without, at the very least, acknowledging the condition and hoped for recovery of Pacioretty?
Has the NHL gone insane?
Without going inside Chara's head let's examine the facts:
-Pacioretty scores OT GW, pushes Chara who makes a beeline for Pacioretty as Montreal players celebrate in the corner of the rink while Jack Edwards on NESN screams into his microphone that "he's a cocky kid and somebody's gonna have his head taken off".
-Several Bruins players tell several members of the media that Pacioretty's "victory shove" was disrespectful and had been discussed as a group
-During Habs - Bruins February 9th game in Boston Pacioretty misses several shifts after taking a two handed slash to the back of the leg (not called) by ("I don't try to hurt anybody") Chara.
- Later in that game Pacioretty is challenged to drop his gloves by another Boston ruffian Adam McQuaid which results in yet another skirmish & scrum
- In much anticipated follow up to "The Boston Massacre" the Canadiens come out flying, totally dominating Boston in every aspect of the game including an early fight when Ryan White (explain to me again why this kid didn't make the team out of training camp?) uses his knuckles to tattoo Johnny Boychuk's face after Boychuk tries to take out PK Subban (and when is PK taken off the ice on a stretcher?) and in the hitting department which includes three body checks delivered by Pacioretty highlighted by a perfectly legal bone rattler on Chara's defense mate Dennis Seidenberg.
-With time running out in the second period as the Habs continue to dominate, Pacioretty beats Chara to a loose puck then chips it off the boards while being chased by Chara (who's on the opposite side of the ice he normally patrols) with Boychuk the lone Boston man back.
-Chara nearly kills Pacioretty
And we're supposed to believe that it was "just a hockey play" gone wrong?
The National Hockey League operations department in Toronto has been occupied by incompetents for years. But Colin Campbell, Mike Murphy and others who work there are well protected by mainstream NHL media types who, for years, have no doubt been fed a steady diet of inside info, leaks and scoops to keep everybody happy. That a so - called major professional sports league would tolerate having an obvious conflict of interest at the highest level of what matters most - integrity - is beyond comprehension. But the New York office is just as culpable, more so actually, considering they are the gate keepers. And when Campbell, who's son Gregory plays for the Bruins, sent e-mails to the then head of officiating Stephen Walkom (and Mike Murphy) complaining about the treatment of his son and his distaste of certain players around the league, the NHL should have severed ties. That they hunkered down and when out of their way to praise Colin Campbell and his "integrity" is when the word "credibility" disappeared forever from the Gary Bettman - Bill Daly handbook.
The echo of Mario Lemieux's strong criticism of how utterly rudderless the NHL has become is still burning in the ears of Bettman - Daly. And now, seemingly beaten by The Goldwater Institute in the noted hockey hotbed of Glendale, Arizona they are forced to come to grips with another feeble attempt by their operations department to police their game that even Bettman - Daly must see is apparently beyond their control. I didn't live through The Richard Riot but I have never witnessed nor felt the anger of Montrealers, mostly hockey fans but not all, directed at the NHL as has been the case since Chara rammed Pacioretty's head into the stanchion. How the hierarchy of such a great sport can hijack the spirit and passion from the most rabid fans in the world is worthy of a 5th Estate style investigation.
In the meantime this much is clear: Bettman, Daly, Campbell, Murphy and the rest of them will not leave office without a good deal of blood on their hands.
Is this really the best we can do in 2011?
Get well Max.