Air Canada, one of the NHL's biggest financial backers, has a bone to pick with the league. They've threatened to withdraw sponsorship if the league doesn't take "immediate" and "serious" action on headshots.
The airline sent a letter to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman yesterday, after Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara made a controversial hit on Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty. Although Pacioretty has been left with a severe concussion and cracked vertebra, no formal action by the NHL has been taken against Chara. The Montreal police are investigating what went down, but obviously and understandably, Air Canada wants to see the NHL step up to the plate on this one, too ... before the league suffers a fatality.
To think that Chara hasn't even been suspended for what happened blows my mind. Pacioretty has said he's "upset and disgusted" about it, and I'm with him ...
He told TSN (Canada's cable sports channel):
I'm not mad for myself, I'm mad because if other players see a hit like that and think it's OK, they won't be suspended, then other players will get hurt like I got hurt.
No kidding! It's not just about Pacioretty. It's bigger than that. The NHL's refusal to suspend Chara for this feels like the league is shrugging off their players' well-being.
In his defense, Chara claimed the hit was an accident ...
It was a hockey play. It wasn't intentional. That's not my style. I never try to hurt anybody. It's not what I attempted to do.
And the NHL review found it was just "a hockey play that resulted in an injury because of the player colliding with the stanchion and then the ice surface." So, in other words, they're also saying it was an accident.
Well, it seems to me that even an accident of this magnitude deserves a slap on the wrist! But, hey, who knows ... maybe they're secretly loving it. Makes me think of the old journalism adage, "If it bleeds, it leads." They're not keen on putting their foot down on the tradition of fighting and aggressive play, because it attracts and engages an audience. And look, I love hockey just the way it is, but I don't want to see more guys like Pacioretty get hurt!
For the NHL to do nothing is definitely not a smooth move in light of the recent deaths of NHL (as well as NFL) players, who have been posthumously diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease that's thought to be triggered by head injuries common in both hockey and football.
You gotta admit, if the same thing went down on your child's hockey or football league -- one player hit another, leading to a severe injury, and no punishment was issued -- no one would be surprised if a sponsor blew the whistle. And everyone would be asking precisely for what Air Canada is asking the NHL for: serious action to curtail serious injuries.
Do you think Chara should be suspended?
Image via Dan4th Nicholas/Flickr