In light of the recent uproar over Boston Bruin Zdeno Chara's damaging hit on the Habs' Max Pacioretty, Hockey Mom has decided to throw her two cents into the debate (along with Daniel Sedin, Joe Thornton, Air Canada and legendary net minder Ken Dryden, among others).
But before I climb up onto my soapbox, a toast to the Caps for a hard-fought victory over the tenacious Carolina Hurricanes last night. Ovechkin tallied and Matt Hendricks swooped in to bunt in Jason Arnott's leave behind in a 2-1 win, aided by the hot hand of young Braden Holtby, who stopped 40 shots. No rest for the weary though as the boys take on the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks tomorrow (the Hawks haven't been so successful thus far in their swing down South).
Now back to my box. If you haven't seen the Chara/Pacioretty hit, I must warn you it's absolutely cringeworthy (video credit to Hockeyfights.com):
The hit left Pacioretty with a severe concussion and two displaced vertebrae. Many hockey fans are appalled that the league did not dole out any additional punishment to the towering Bruins defenseman. And the historic bad blood between the two teams just adds fuel to the fire. In my opinion, Chara may not have had intent to injure, but clearly he had the elbow up and made contact with Pacioretty's head. Now Chara is not known as a dirty player and is often cited for his global humanitarian work off the ice. But in my opinion, it was an obvious head shot (and not one occuring as a result of an unfortunatecollision, as was the case of the Steckel/Crosby hit - of which I'm sure many Penguins fans would opt to differ) and should have incurred a suspension if the NHL really wants to enforce a zero tolerance stance.
In keeping with its inconsistent punishment of hits to the head, the league doled out a three-game suspension to Tampa Bay Lightning d-man Pavel Kubina for his elbow to the head of Chicago's Dave Bolland in a game three days after the Chara incident (Bolland is suffering from a concussion and most likely won't suit up against the Capitals tomorrow).
What concerns me about this lack of consistency regarding hits to the head (intentional or not) aside from the obvious disasterous impact such hits have on NHL players (just ask Marc Savard), is the message it sends to youth players. The more youth players see there are no consequences for knocking a fellow player in the noggin in the professional arena, the more likely they are to test crossing the line in their own game (especially when you're dealing with Bantam level players and up, who are often times pushing the limits fueled by surging testosterone levels). Granted my own two are sometimes guilty, but watching NHL games together offers me a prime opportunity for teaching lessons they can incorporate at the youth level. But when the NHL is sending mixed messages, it certainly makes those teaching moments for us hockey parents a heck of a lot harder. We can only hope that the GMs come to some sort of concrete resolution on the issue during their upcoming annual meeting...