CRIMINAL? I DON'T THINK SO.

Jason Gregor
March 10 2011 11:39AM

The Zdeno Chara hit has sent the country, okay, mainly a few politicians, an airline, an entire province and now the Police, into a frenzy. It was seven years ago this past Tuesday that Todd Bertuzzi jumped Steve Moore and the reaction wasn't close to the emotional outcry that we are witnessing right now.

First it was the politicians trying to gain popularity. via the Toronto Sun.

"I simply don't understand what the NHL is thinking here," Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff told reporters after the NHL made its decision. "It's up to the National Hockey League to protect its players. It's up to the National Hockey League to protect all the young kids playing the game. It's up to the National Hockey League to act and I can tell you, there is strong feeling in the House of Commons that if they don't act, then, you know, we should get involved. No politician wants to get involved in this, it's not our business. But as a citizens, as a fan, I think it's outrageous."

The Chara hit came up during daily Question Period in the House of Commons minutes before the NHL released its decision.

NDP MP Glenn Thibeault, who has been pushing new legislation to reduce concussions and other serious injuries in amateur sports, told the House the Chara hit was more evidence new rules are needed.

Minister of State for Sport Gary Lunn said the government had been consulting with national sporting organizations on the issue.

"It is something that we hope that the NHL also takes very seriously. This type of hitting is unacceptable," Lunn said. "We would do everything to ensure that NHL does not allow this kind of action to continue."

I'm sure all of us are happy that the Liberals, NDP and Conservatives are so concerned about the game. I'm not sure what new rule Thibeault would like put in, but based on their track record I'm sure they will follow up with a comprehensive study and actually try and do something to lessen concussions.

Or they might put as much work into reducing concussions as they have into making our criminal system more fair.

ENTER AIR CANADA

Then Air Canada sent a letter to Gary Bettman. Here is a portion of  it.

"We are contacting you (Wednesday) to voice our concern over (Tuesday night's) incident involving Max Pacioretty and Zdeno Chara at the Bell Centre in Montreal," wrote Vandal. "This is following several other incidents involving career-threatening and life-threatening headshots in the NHL recently."

Vandal noted the controversial issue is becoming bad for Air Canada's brand.

"From a corporate social responsibility standpoint, it is becoming increasingly difficult to associate our brand with sports events which could lead to serious and irresponsible accidents; action must be taken by the NHL before we are encountered with a fatality.

"Unless the NHL takes immediate action with serious suspension to the players in question to curtail these life-threatening injuries, Air Canada will withdraw its sponsorship of hockey."

Not only does Air Canada own the naming rights to Toronto's Air Canada Centre, it's believed they're a major corporate sponsor behind all six Canadian teams. Air Canada's head office is also located in Montreal.

Call me skeptical, but I wonder how much of this letter had to do with their head office being in Montreal, compared to the backlash of fans/flyers who choose West Jet because they aren't a major NHL sponsor? I might be naive in thinking that this is another case of head office pandering to the rationale and bias-free Montrealers.

AND THEN

Finally the Montreal Police got involved. (via TSN)

Law enforcement got involved following a request by Quebec's director of criminal and penal prosecutions, Louis Dionne.

A spokeswoman for Dionne said that, after seeing television footage of the incident, he issued a recommendation to the provincial Public Security department that an investigation be opened.

The department then forwarded the file to police.

"The police investigation will be held. Like all police investigations, evidence will be gathered and an investigation report will be submitted (to the DCPP)," said spokeswoman Martine Berube.

"(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."

The move came amid a burst of outrage after the National Hockey League declined to suspend Chara.

Earlier Wednesday, Dionne's own office downplayed talk of a criminal investigation but hardened its tone hours later when the league announced no sanctions would be taken.  

I wonder if the Police in Montreal would have investigated this hit if it was a Boston Bruin on the receiving end? I'm sure the police would have been inundated with calls from Montreal fans livid that an innocent Bruins player was so maliciously attacked on the ice.

To me this is clearly a case where passion and biased emotion has taken charge. Politicians, Air Canada and the Quebec police are pandering to the highly emotional Canadien fans. I will be very surprised if any of these three factions follow through on their threats. Sure there will be an investigation, but I don't see any charges coming.

Air Canada has made their point with their Montreal flyers and I don't see them pulling their sponsorship, while the politicians will jump on the next hot topic very quickly and we won't hear from them until another borderline hockey hit, where a Canadian-based team has one of their players injured.

PARTING SHOT

Check out this Jack Johnson hit on Ryan Smyth. 

of the biggest arguments/complaints surrounding the Chara hit is that he knew where the "turnbuckle" was and deliberately drove Max Parioretty's head into it. Did Johnson do the same thing here? Outside of Don Cherry showing it on CBC was it ever talked about as much as the Chara hit?

I know Smyth had the puck, but many of the Chara haters suggested his hit was intentional, so was Johnson who was facing the "turnbuckle" just as guilty?

I love hockey, and I love how passionate Canadians are about the game, but in this case too many people have overreacted and have made it more personal than rationale.

That is disappointing

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One of Canada's most versatile sports personalities. Jason hosts The Jason Gregor Show, weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., on TSN 1260, and he writes a column every Monday in the Edmonton Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JasonGregor
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