QUEBEC CITY (AP) — A Quebec prosecutor wants police to investigate the on-ice hit by Boston‘s Zdeno Chara that sent Montreal’s Max Pacioretty to the hospital with a fractured vertebra and severe concussion.
Police said they are acting on a request by Quebec’s director of criminal and penal prosecutions, Louis Dionne. Police added that after evidence is collected it will then be determined if there are grounds for prosecution.
The NHL said a day earlier it would not suspend Chara for Tuesday night’s hit, when he slammed Pacioretty into a glass partition.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman declined to comment Thursday while on his way to a congressional briefing in Washington, D.C. focusing on the state of hockey in America.
There has been strong debate this season over injuries from hits to the head. Pittsburgh star Sidney Crosby is among those sidelined with such an injury.
In a related matter, Air Canada has told the NHL it is considering withdrawing its sponsorship unless the league tightens rules to reduce potentially serious injuries.
Dionne filed his request for an investigation after watching television footage of Chara’s hit, his spokeswoman said.
“The police investigation will be held. Like all police investigations, evidence will be gathered and an investigation report will be submitted, spokeswoman Martine Berube said. “(The DCPP) will then evaluate to see whether there’s grounds for prosecution.”
Asked what kind of punishment could be assessed in a case like Chara’s, she replied: “It’s too early to say. That would depend on what charges are laid. That’s a little difficult to predict at this point.”
Pacioretty, a left wing from Connecticut, is a regular top-line player for Montreal. With he and Chara racing for the puck near the player benches, Chara checked Pacioretty into the boards, sending him slamming into a stanchion supporting the glass.
The hit drew criticism from Gary Lunn, the minister of state for sports, and others outside the league. Lunn called it unacceptable.
But the league deemed it “a hockey play that resulted in an injury because of the player colliding with the stanchion and then the ice surface.”
Chara, who said he had no intent to hurt Pacioretty, was given a major penalty for interference and a game misconduct on the play. The Bruins’ captain has never been suspended in his 13-year career.
Pacioretty told TSN he was “upset and disgusted” that the league had not suspended Chara.
“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,” he said.
Pacioretty has not forgiven Chara.
“I understand, he’s in the hospital, he has a right to be emotional and I respect that,” Chara said. “I obviously feel bad that he got hurt. As a hockey player, we all feel bad that something like that happened — doesn’t matter if you’re the home team or the visiting team. I’m wishing him a fast recovery and hopefully he can be back on the ice soon and that’s all we love to do. We love to play hockey. Obviously when we go out there, we take risks. And sometimes, we do get hurt. But, it’s just very unfortunate.”
Several legal and former law-enforcement experts expressed doubt a police investigation would result in criminal charges.
“This would be the type of case that would be very tough to prosecute,” former major crimes investigator with Quebec’s provincial police John Galianos said.
He added that the difficulty facing prosecutors would be establishing Chara’s intent to injure.
“I don’t think a Crown attorney would prosecute based on the video,” he said.
Montreal lawyer Steven Slimovitch said: “When you get involved in a sport, there is a concept of acceptance of risk. The question is did Pacioretty agree to be hit in that kind of fashion by Zdeno Chara? Was the hit so outside the norm of what is found in the sport of hockey . . . that it’s not hockey anymore.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)