John Garrett: Arena know-where
Did Zdeno Chara know what he was doing?
There are things in the NHL that are the same in each and every rink.
From the goal line to the blue line the distance is 64 ft. The nets are the same size. The glass has to be 8 ft high at the ends and at least 5 ft along both sides. Even the benches have specific length requirements. There is however no specific statements on the padding around the exposed stanchions or where they are located.
At Rogers Arena in Vancouver there are two partitions: one at the end of the home bench and one at the end of the visitors bench. In between there is enough space for a camerman and an announcer. The cameramen call it the suicide box. It’s as close to the action as you can get without being on the ice.
I am in San Jose and at the HP Pavilion there is only one partition between the two benches. It is set back about ten inches from the boards and it’s there to keep the two teams from ‘interacting’. The corners are padded but probably could and should be padded more.
At the Bell Centre in Montreal there is a hallway that goes back between the benches and there’s a section of glass that protects the people in that hallway. That glass is right on the boards and it was into this section of glass that Zdeno Chara checked Max Pacioretty.
I gave you just a few of the different setups around the league to show that although they are different, they are consistent in that at the end of each bench, and somewhere in the middle, there is a stationary post.
The players all know it is there.
Naturally, you are going to be more familiar with your home rink, and then with those in your own division, and then with those in the buildings where you have had the most playoff games.
Do you think Zdeno Chara was familiar with the Bell Centre?
The big defenceman has played more than 60 games in Montreal. The game is played at super high speed and decisions are made so fast that they’re practically instinctual, but when Chara squeezed Pacioretty out at the bench, do you think he knew there was a sudden stop coming up fast?
What doesn’t look good on the towering Slovak is the very public feud he’s had going with the Canadiens forward for the last three games. Do you think he knew exactly which forward he was taking into the boards?
Chara is 6' 9" and weighs 255. Pacioretty is 6'2" 195. Is it easy to angle the guy off and get him airborne?
As I said, the game happens fast. Plays literally unfold in a heartbeat, but I do not buy that there was no intent for a violent collision. Chara doesn’t have a rap sheet, nor a reputation, but he’s a fierce competitor who plays with an edge – and that’s part of what makes him so effective. He’s an intimidating opponent. It’s impossible to read Chara's mind, but the action itself should be enough to make a decision.
The question I would ask is this: if Chris Pronger had made the same hit, what would the league have done? Would he have received a suspension? If so, how many games and what would the public opinion be?
The question is the decision on this one.