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Health Last Updated: Mar 11th, 2011 - 15:30:48

Zdeno Chara Incident Prompts Criminal Investigation & NHL Sponsorship Crisis
David Hope
Mar 10, 2011, 09:55

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Zdeno Chara's hit on Tuesday night that left Max Pacioretty's neck broken and the defenseless player motionless on the ice is creating a tremendous amount of attention for the NHL. Local authorities are beginning a criminal investigation into the matter while a major sponsor of the NHL is threatening their funding if the league doesn't clean up it's act.

Quebec provincial officials said Thursday they want a police investigation of the Montreal-Boston NHL game this week that broke a Montreal player's neck.

In a release, the director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions called for the police probe after the National Hockey League said it found no harmful intent in Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara's check that slammed Montreal forward Max Pacioretty's head and neck into a pole supporting safety glass.

Pacioretty was still in hospital Thursday with a fractured neck vertebra and a severe concussion, The (Montreal) Gazette reported.

Montreal Police issued a statement confirming they had been asked to investigate, but said nothing more, the newspaper said.

Chara received a 5-minute major penalty and a game misconduct for the hit, as he and Pacioretty weren't near the puck.

At least two hockey players in Quebec have faced criminal charges of assault following incidents on the ice since 2008, the Gazette said.

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Air Canada's Warning

One of the National Hockey League's major sponsors is threatening to pull funding if the league doesn't clamp down on headshots and concussions.

In a letter Wednesday from its Montreal headquarters, Air Canada told NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman the league's response to a serious injury in a Tuesday night game was unacceptable, the QMI Agency reported.

In that game, Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty was slammed into the boards and a Plexiglas stanchion by Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara. Pacioretty was carried off with a broken neck and major concussion.

NHL officials declined to suspend Chara, saying video replays showed no "intent" to injure.

Air Canada said it expected policy changes after NHL governors meet next week in Florida.

"Unless the NHL takes immediate action with serious suspension to the players in question to curtail these life-threatening injuries, Air Canada will withdraw its sponsorship of hockey," the letter said.

The airline sponsors all six of Canada's NHL franchises and owns naming rights to the home of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Air Canada Center.

Source: UPI

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