MONTREAL – Zdeno Chara hoisted the Stanley Cup as captain of the Boston Bruins two weeks ago. Now the big defenceman will have something else on his hands: a meeting with Montreal cops.
Montreal police announced Tuesday that they intend to question Chara soon—but they wouldn’t say when or where they planned to do it.
A probe is nearing completion into the Chara hit last March that sidelined Montreal forward Max Pacioretty and sparked demands for a crackdown on hockey violence.
A police spokesman said Chara was the final person they needed to speak with to complete their investigation; after that, the Crown will decide whether to press charges.
“The last person to meet is the person targeted by the investigation and that will be done in the coming weeks or months,” Ian Lafreniere said.
“In terms of whether or not it’s going to happen in Boston or whether it will happen here (in Montreal), we don’t discuss those details and we never publicize the fact that we’re meeting a suspect.”
The combination of Chara’s high profile and the hockey-mad culture of Montreal have made for an unusual case.
When Chara shoved his rival into a stanchion, breaking a vertebra and ending his season on March 8, he received a game misconduct.
The NHL, however, ruled the hit was legal and did not hand out a suspension. That prompted a flood of calls to the Montreal police switchboard where ordinary Montrealers offered to report an assault.
Quebec’s director of criminal prosecutions then ordered an investigation into the hit, which will ultimately result in the police encounter with Chara.
The meeting has taken a while to set up; police declined to question Chara during the Bruins’ two-month championship playoff run.
“Most of these people were hockey players so in terms of (them being) available was hard because they were involved in the finals also,” Lafreniere said.
Lafreniere noted that the Boston Bruins have been extremely co-operative, having hired a Montreal lawyer to act as an intermediary.
Experts have weighed in that they felt it was unlikely that Chara would face any charges.
Pacioretty, himself, has said he was “upset” and “disgusted” that a player could get away with such a hit and not be punished by the NHL. However, he has also said he disagrees with resorting to criminal prosecution.
Pacioretty reacted Tuesday with a terse statement on his Twitter page: “Last comment on this: I hope Chara is NOT prosecuted. I have moved on from my incident and I hope everyone else can do the same,” he wrote. “All I am focused on is getting ready for next season, and will no longer comment on the past.”
The promising young forward, who also sustained a concussion, recently signed a new two-year contract with the Canadiens and is expected to be ready for next season.
News of the police plans to question Chara triggered instantaneous, scornful reactions from Boston media and fans on Twitter.
One typical fan comment quipped: “Montreal police are still bringing in Chara for questioning? Waste of taxpayer dollars. I hope he brings the Cup with him.”
Another Bruins fan joked: “I can imagine the line of questioning now. ‘So, Mr. Chara… What’s it (like) to win the Cup? Can we have a picture?'”