BROSSARD, Quebec — Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty has a severe concussion and a fractured vertebra from a frightening hit by Boston’s Zdeno Chara that will not draw further discipline from the NHL.
Pacioretty fractured the fourth cervical vertebra and is in a hospital under observation, Canadiens coach Jacques Martin said Wednesday.
“There is no other prognosis at this time,” Martin said after practice. Martin said Pacioretty will “obviously be out indefinitely.”
Pacioretty was wheeled off the ice with 15.8 seconds left in the second period of the Canadiens’ 4-1 victory Tuesday night.
“The most important thing for our organization right now is Max’s recovery. We will continue following recommendations from the doctors and of course, Max and his immediate family would appreciate privacy in this matter,” he added in a statement on the Canadiens’ website.
The 22-year-old player was chasing the puck along the boards in front of the team benches late in the second period when he was checked hard by Chara. His head slammed into the glass partition between the benches. He lay motionless on the ice for several minutes before he was taken to a hospital, where he spent the night.
“What I remember about it was the sound — it sounded like a gun: bang!” said Pacioretty’s linemate, Scott Gomez. “Stuff like that is tough to look at.”
Chara was given a major penalty for interference and a game misconduct, but NHL vice president Mike Murphy said Wednesday there won’t be a suspension.
“I feel bad about what happened,” Chara said at practice Wednesday before learning Murphy’s decision. “I was trying to make a strong hockey play and play hard and it’s very unfortunate, like I said, that a player got hurt and had to leave the game.”
Murphy said: “After a thorough review of the video I can find no basis to impose supplemental discipline,” Murphy said. “This hit resulted from a play that evolved and then happened very quickly — with both players skating in the same direction and with Chara attempting to angle his opponent into the boards. I could not find any evidence to suggest that, beyond this being a correct call for interference, that Chara targeted the head of his opponent, left his feet or delivered the check in any other manner that could be deemed to be dangerous.
“This was a hockey play that resulted in an injury because of the player colliding with the stanchion and then the ice surface. In reviewing this play, I also took into consideration that Chara has not been involved in a supplemental discipline incident during his 13-year NHL career.”
But federal minister of sport Gary Lunn called the hit “unacceptable.”
Murphy hears cases involving Boston in place of league disciplinarian Colin Campbell, whose son, Gregory, plays for the Bruins.
“Knowing him (Chara) as I know,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said, “there was no intent to injure the player on that play. And as I mentioned (Tuesday), the location of the injury is what caused the damage, and that’s the unfortunate part of that.”
Chara, he said, “plays hard. At the same time, he plays clean. It’s already a challenge for a guy like him, at 6-foot-9, to keep his elbows down because the minute he lifts them up a little bit he’s hitting guys in the head.”
Boston’s Patrice Bergeron, who missed most of the 2007-08 season because of a severe concussion, said, “You’ve got to look at the hit. If it’s a bad hit, it’s a bad hit. This one was unfortunate because he hit the partition there. It’s a bad spot to get hit. They were both kind of leaning toward the bench there.”
Shortly after the NHL announced it wouldn’t take further action against Chara, Montreal police were inundated with calls from people seeking to file a criminal complaint against the player. A spokesman said police suspected the calls were inspired by a media outlet that suggested the idea.
The police spokesman described the gesture as “irresponsible” — and urged Montrealers to keep the emergency line free for actual life-and-death matters. “Someone in the media has been telling people to call the police to complain,” Sgt. Ian Lafreniere said. “This shows a serious lack of responsibility.”