Max Pacioretty says he no longer has any ill will toward Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara for an injury that ended his season on March 8.
The Montreal Canadiens left winger spoke to the media Thursday for the first time since he suffered a concussion and a fractured vertebra when he slammed into a stanchion at the Bell Centre after a hit from the six-foot-nine Boston defenceman.
"I think he regrets what he did and I forgive him because he definitely made an effort to contact me and go out of his way to tell me how he felt," said Pacioretty. "I respect him for that.
"It's a fast game and it's tough to make a decision in a second. Fortunately now I'll be ready to go next season."
It was a bittersweet day for the 22-year-old. That morning, he received clearance from team doctors to resume practice with contact for the neck injury. On Tuesday, doctors had cleared him of concussion symptoms. But he won't get to practise again until next season.
Had Montreal beaten the Bruins in Game 7 of their playoff series on Wednesday night, Pacioretty should have been able to get back in the lineup sometime in the second round. Instead, Boston took the decisive game in overtime, sending the Canadiens into summer vacation.
When the Canadiens announced not long after the incident that Pacioretty may be able to return some time during the playoffs, Bruins veteran Mark Recchi accused the Canadiens of exaggerating the injury.
Pacioretty waived that off as well. After all, he had been forced to make a quick apology himself when he sent out a Twitter message during Game 4 that the game was longer than Bruins forward Brad Marchand's nose.
"There's so much that's gone on in the last two months, things said. A lot of people who have said stuff wish they could take it back, myself included," he said. "You let the emotion get the best of you some times.
"It's a good rivalry between us and Boston and hopefully it continues next year."
Montreal fans were outraged that Chara was not suspended to the hit, which caused a league-wide debate on hockey violence that even drew comment from Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other politicians.