Police in Montreal are investigating whether or not to press charges against Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara for his hit on Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty on Tuesday night, according to a report in the Canadian Press.
From the CP, via the Globe & Mail:
Montreal police say they opened the investigation after a request by Quebec's director of criminal and penal prosecutions, Louis Dionne.
"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."
This is a rather unprecedented step. Sure, criminal charges have been pressed against NHL players in the past, but let's quickly run through some of those incidents.
- In 2004, Todd Bertuzzi assaulted Colorado's Steve Moore from behind near center ice, with the weight of Bertuzzi crushing Moore's face and head into the ice. Moore never played hockey again. Bertuzzi's intent was clear, and the NHL punished him by suspending him for the remainder of the season without pay.
Local police charged Bertuzzi with assault, to which he was found guilty. He was given a year's probation and he served 80 hours of community service.
- In 2000, Marty McSorley of the Bruins swung his stick at the head of Vancouver's Donald Brashear. He was charged with assault with a weapon and given 18-months of probation.
- In 1988, Dino Ciccarelli became the first NHL player to actually serve jail time for an on-ice incident when he was sentenced to one day in jail and a $1,000 dollar fine for hitting Luke Richardson in the helmet with his stick.
- In 1982, Jimmy Mann of the Winnipeg Jets broke the jaw of Pittsburgh's Paul Gardner. He was found guilty, fined $500 and given a suspended sentence.
- In the 70s, several incidents led to charges being filed against NHL players. Joe Watson, Don Saleski and Bob Kelly of the Flyers were found guilty of simple assault in 1976. Several other assault charges were filed against NHL players in that decade, but nobody else was found guilty.
The difference between all of these incidents and the Chara hit on Pacioretty is clearly the intent. Chara denies any intent, the NHL clear didn't think there was intent to injure and truthfully, we have no idea what the intent was on the play.
While many in Montreal obviously are of the opinion that Chara did it on purpose -- let's not mistake the provincial emotions at play here, too -- the fact of the matter is that is just can't be proven one way or another. In every single one of those other cases, intent was clear. Here, you can make a very fair argument that this was just a hockey with an unfortunate result, and that's the argument the NHL has sided with here as well.
Because of that, this move by Montreal authorities is rather unprecedented.