Don Cherry has a solution to help prevent, or at least minimize, the potential for serious injury on the side boards in National Hockey League rinks: redesign the stanchion at the players' benches.
During his Coach's Corner segment Saturday, the Hockey Night in Canada personality suggested Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty wouldn't have suffered a serious concussion and broken vertebra earlier this week if the stanchion between the benches at Montreal's Bell Centre was slanted and not in its current upright position.
On Tuesday night, Boston Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara slammed Pacioretty into the metal support holding up the glass at the end of the visitors bench, knocking him out as he fell to the ice, and was assessed a five-minute major penalty for interference and a game misconduct.
"If the [stanchion] is on a slant, the kid [Pacioretty] has a headache today. If you [make that change] it would be good," said Cherry, as he held a drawing of a reshaped stanchion.
For years, there have been incidents of players hitting the stanchion, Cherry added.
Cherry agreed with the decision by Mike Murphy, the assistant to NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell, not to suspend Chara for the hit.
"Here's a guy, six-foot-nine, 260 pounds. For thirteen years he's never been suspended, he's never tried to hurt guys. If he tried to hurt guys, he'd kill 'em at that size," said Cherry.
For those wondering why the league wouldn't banish Chara for three or four games, Cherry had an explantion.
"It's either you give him 20 games or you give him none. It can't be a little," he said. "He was just taking [Pacioretty out of the play].
Good on NHL
"The league did it right this time."
In an open letter to fans Thursday, Canadiens owner Geoff Molson said the NHL was wrong for not punishing Chara and the issue of player safety was at a point of urgency.
On the topic of player safety, Cherry said Molson would be wise to apply thicker padding to the stanchions at the Bell Centre like the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
"Here's what I want you to do, Geoff," began a perturbed Cherry. "I want you to … call all your players together in the dressing room and you say: 'I want you to answer this honestly and don't be afraid. How do you feel about playing 41 [home] games with that seamless glass and the boards in Montreal?'
"Worst in the league for injuries. Ask them that, instead of going in the paper and saying you want to do this and want to do that [and that Chara] should have been suspended."
While the Bell Centre ranked second to Edmonton's Rexall Place for best ice surface in the NHL in a recent HNIC/NHL Players' Association poll, it rated second only to Joe Louis Arena in Detroit for having the worst boards and glass.
The traditional glass system, like that in Montreal, Calgary, Minnesota, Nashville, Colorado and Phoenix, provides no energy absorption. That said, the arenas in each of these cities will have their end zone boards and glass retro-fitted to acrylic glass in the off-season, sources told Darren Dreger of tsn.ca recently.
The reason for the change reportedly is due to the above normal injury rates at the aforementioned venues.