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(Michael Dwyer)
(Michael Dwyer)

Chara says he wasn't sure who he hit Add to ...

One comment that may have been lost in what turned out to be a breathless Thursday was Zdeno Chara claiming he had no idea the guy he hit the other night was Max Pacioretty.

Come to think of it, can anyone conclusively prove that was actually Chara on the ice? Was there even a hockey game on Tuesday?

Ridiculous.

Or is it?

A fascinating aspect of the NHL and pro sports in general is that players almost never offer an unreserved public apology for what they did (Todd Bertuzzi is a notable exception). They'll say they're sorry that the other guy got hurt, which is what Chara has said repeatedly, but you won't hear them say "I blew it, I shouldn't have done it, I accept responsibility and apologize to player X and his family for my actions."

Now, that surely has to do more with concerns over legal liability and the like than a lack of moral fibre, but what seems clear is that Chara is absolutely convinced he did nothing wrong, and evidently he wholeheartedly believes his version of the events.

Let's face it, none of us likes to admit when we're in the wrong (including newspaper journalists).

But there's a problem when he says he didn't know he was locking up with Pacioretty, and it goes further than a difference of opinion over his intentions.

There was a faceoff to the right of Montreal's net barely five seconds before the hit, Chara was stationed at Boston's right point and Pacioretty was lined up on his side of the ice, 25 or 30 feet away, almost directly in front of him - it was Pacioretty's job to cover the point if Boston won the puck.

Situational awareness is something all great players possess, and Chara is undoubtedly a great player - consider the way he smartly read the play after the faceoff and rushed out to intercept the winger, Pacioretty (who had mixed it up with Chara in the previous two games between the teams).

Here's something Habs winger Michael Cammalleri told our friend Ken Campbell of The Hockey News on Wednesday.

"I don't think Chara premeditated this, but from experience when a player gets under your skin for whatever reason, you remember it and you notice when he's out there. You know whom you're playing against. Especially a divisional opponent, because you're so familiar. You can almost tell by the movements of a player. There's a lot of tells, from what brand of stick they're using to how they tape it."

Not to get all amateur shrink-y, but there is a well-established phenomenon in psychology called self-serving bias, in which people typically ascribes successes to their own genius and failure to outside factors (ie., the teacher doesn't like me, it was the rink design).

There's also another, more contentious principle in psychology: self -delusion, which is tied in to questions of ego and irrationality.

Could it be that Chara's own mind is fooling him into believing he isn't in any way responsible for what happened? Is suggesting that he wasn't aware of where he was on the ice or who he was facing a defence mechanism of some sort? And is that a pro-athlete ego thing or merely a human thing?

I'm not trying to slag Chara here, just trying to understand why he's saying what he's saying, and why he seems to believe it so resolutely. You can never get in another person's brain, but with everything that's been said about this incident, it's sure tempting to try.



Follow on Twitter: @MrSeanGordon

 

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