LAS VEGAS, NV Zdeno Chara has stated many times that his incident with Max Pacioretty two years was a hockey play, and that it ended unfortunately for the Habs forward as he was wheeled out on a stretcher from the Bell Centre.
More than unfortunate the phrase horribly awry would also apply as it would for the actions of a blood-thirsty Montreal fan base that seemed intent on persecuting Chara after the incident.
But time heals all wounds, and the Bruins Captain was pleased to see Pacioretty named as one of the Masterton Trophy Finalists for Wednesdays NHL Awards ceremony at the Wynn Casino and Resort. Chara was there as a Norris Trophy finalist looking for his second career award, and the presence of both players was difficult to ignore 15 months after one horrendous hit intertwined them.
Hes been playing really well. Hes been a good player for Montreal, said Chara of Pacioretty. He came back really strong and has come back with a lot of confidence and support. Good for him.
Interestingly enough Pacioretty admitted on Wednesday hes come to an even greater level of understanding with the Bs 6-foot-9 defenseman. After their collision ended with the Habs forward smacking head-first into the Bell Centre stanchion, Chara reached out to Pacioretty to express regret over the Montreal grinders injuries.
It was appreciated on one level at the time, though Pacioretty was still understandably upset in the months that followed.
"It's kind of like a bad moment in my life that I want to get over, but I just seem to not be able to do it, said Pacioretty, who recovered courageously from a severe concussion and fracture vertebrae to finish with 33 goals and 65 points for the Canadiens last season. "I have talked to him. Hockey's a fast game and I've made mistakes. He admitted he made a mistake, so obviously there's no grudge from my point of view . . . and on my end."
But Pacioretty has a much better understanding of the sentiment and the difficulty in making that phone call when he similarly apologized to Penguins defenseman Kris Letang this season.
Pacioretty was suspended three games for catching Letang in the head with a very questionable hit, and knew the onus was on him to accept responsibility when he was on the other end.
Its something the few, the unlucky players will experience in their careers full of collisions and near injuries.
Both Chara and Pacioretty now stand on a little bit more equal footing involved in hockey plays that went wrong, and the Bs defenseman accepts its something that can happen in the bruising NHL world.
We havent talked recently, but weve talked on a number of occasions. I think its pretty normal. We all play the game hard and we all want to win, said Chara. We all play tough. Its hockey and thats just the way that it goes, but at the end of the day we dont want to hurt anybody.
We dont want to make another guy go out on crutches or be out of the game. Its just the way it happens a lot of times. In a split-second you do something and you dont even have time to think about it. You just react to it. So its a great gesture for him to reach to Kris. Thats what we do as hockey players. We play hard, but were also humans. We dont want to hurt anybody on purpose.
Perhaps both Chara and Pacioretty will think twice in those split-second actions after being forced to make phone calls to victimized opponents. Thats what having respect for fellow players is all about.