QUEBEC – After eight months, the police case has been officially closed on Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara’s devastating hit on the Montreal Canadiens’ Max Pacioretty.
There will be no criminal charges laid over the on-ice incident last March.
The hulking defenceman shoved the young Canadiens forward into a stanchion, breaking a vertebra and ending his season in an act that prompted a national debate on violence in hockey.
In a statement released Thursday, Quebec’s director of criminal prosecutions said it did not believe it had a solid case.
“After carefully examining all the information provided in this affair, the (office) is not reasonably convinced it could establish evidence of guilt,” the provincial prosecutors’ office said.
Chara received a game misconduct but no further suspension from the NHL, and the ensuing uproar in Montreal prompted law enforcement to take a closer look at the case.
Montreal police met with various witnesses and concluded their investigation in August after meeting with Chara himself.
Pacioretty had been critical of the NHL’s non-suspension, but even he had called the police involvement unnecessary. He has since recovered and returned to play this season.
The investigation was delayed because police held off on interviewing Chara during the Bruins’ lengthy championship run last spring.
“The Bruins organization respects the process that the Quebec prosecutors office undertook regarding Zdeno Chara and we are satisfied with their announcement today,” Bruins president Cam Neely said in a statement. “We now consider this matter closed and the organization will have no further comment.”
Some legal experts had warned from the get-go that it was difficult to imagine a court convicting Chara.
For charges to stick after an on-ice incident, they said prosecutors would have to prove the behaviour in question went far beyond what might be reasonably expected in a hockey game.
A stick-swinging incident might meet the criteria, they said, but hitting someone into a stanchion might not qualify.