Will you help? Inspired by Air Canada's letter to the NHL, in which the company threatens to withdraw its significant corporate sponsorship if the NHL does not reconsider its lukewarm stance on dangerous hits and headshots (a HUGE impact should it happen), I have drafted the letter below to appeal to other corporate sponsors of the NHL. Besides Air Canada, there is a long list, including McDonald's, Pepsi, Bell, Scotiabank, Canadian Tire, etc. I would like to know if you're on board - if you'd like to sign it. If so, I will arrange for that to happen in an electronic manner, and let's take some action.
Max Pacioretty deserves our support, and if this is something I can help to make happen, to vindicate the non-action taken on Zdeno Chara for his ugly hit on our player, it will be an honor.
As you are no doubt aware, in a game vs. Boston at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec on Tuesday night (March 8th, 2011), Canadiens forward, Max Pacioretty, took a hard hit from Bruins captain, Zdeno Chara, who rode him along the boards to the turnbuckle (post holding the Plexiglass that separates the two benches). Pacioretty’s head and neck took the brunt of the hit, he slumped to the ice where his head hit the surface, and was knocked unconscious. He was transported to hospital where he has been diagnosed with a severe concussion and a non-displaced fractured fourth cervical vertebra in his neck.
This is a very serious injury. Not only did those watching – in person and on television throughout the nation and beyond – not know whether Pacioretty was breathing, not only did those watching not know whether he would ever walk again, not only is his prognosis unknown at this time…but at the very least, his season is over. This is a player who began with the Canadiens December 12, 2010, and has played with his full heart and soul, winning games and scoring goals and assists (17 points in total until the injury that hospitalized him). Max Pacioretty has become a central part of the line-up, someone the Habs have counted on to go to the net and play the game in the very best way he can, while maintaining the team spirit and integrity of the game of hockey. He has been sidelined for an indefinite amount of time by a player 6’9, who should have known better.
As you are also aware, the National Hockey League has not taken a very firm position against headshots and dangerous hits (both of which describe the one on Pacioretty). There have been a few perfunctory suspensions, but nothing that resonates with players who return to the ice only to execute the same types of hits again. As well, the inconsistent NHL has sanctioned players for merely talking (case in point, Sean Avery’s 6-game suspension resulting from some derogatory remarks he made in December 2008, about his ex-girlfriend who was now dating another hockey player) or mere gestures (case in point, James Wisniewski’s October 2010 2-game suspension for making a lewd gesture to another player). However, the day after what could have been a crippling hit to Max Pacioretty, Zdeno Chara was in a phone meeting with Mike Murphy for a review of his actions. (It should be noted that Murphy stood in for Colin Campbell who could not associate himself with this case as his son plays for Boston – a problematic situation in and of itself, in the NHL) Chara was not penalized in any supplemental fashion (other than the game misconduct and 5-minute penalty on Tuesday night) for what happened, not even a perfunctory suspension or fine, and that has reverberate through the hockey world, polarizing fans, players, writers and coaches for and against such measures.
Pacioretty, speaking out today after having seen the video for the first time, said the following:
“I am upset and disgusted that the league didn’t think enough of (the hit) to suspend him. I’m not mad for myself, I’m mad because if other players see a hit like that and think it’s okay, they won’t be suspended, then other players will get hurt like I got hurt. I thought the league would do something, a little something. I’m not talking a big number, I don’t know, one game, two games, three games…whatever, but something to show that it’s not right.”
I am writing today, with a list of supporting signatures, to draw your attention to the words of Denis Vandal, director of marketing/communications at Air Canada, who – in a letter to the NHL Wednesday March 9th – expressed concern over recent incidents of headshots and concussions. Mr. Vandal wrote,
“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."
I would like to appeal to your sense of integrity, moral decency, ethical considerations, and your own concern for lending your corporate sponsorship to an organization that seems to feel nothing short of death will change its attitude on dangerous hits. Will you, too, stand up for players who deserve to be part of a league that stands for safety and justice in the case of borderline criminal behavior? Will you, too, contact the NHL and voice your own intentions to reconsider your corporate sponsorship of its organization? Leaders like your company can set the tone for our current players, those who will follow, and youngsters who aspire to the NHL, all of whom are questioning the lack of action against a player whose flagrant disregard for the life of another almost resulted in the ultimate tragedy. Your leadership will be lauded by those of us who stand for justice. For players like the Montreal Canadiens’ #67, Max Pacioretty, the Pittsburgh Penguins’ #87 Sidney Crosby, Boston Bruins’ #91, Marc Savard, and others who have had career- or season-ending injuries, you must represent them with your voices raised for justice.
Thanking you for your attention, we remain,
If you're on board - comment on this post. If we get enough people willing to sign this (and feel free to pass along this blog entry), I'll take care of the rest.
Let's do it for Patches!!