TORONTO - Keith Aulie canít speak to what was running through Zdeno Charaís mind when he sent Max Pacioretty crashing head first into the glass partition in Montreal on Tuesday night.
The hit knocked the Canadiens forward unconscious and sent him to the hospital with a severe concussion and a fractured vertebra, and sparked outrage across the country when no fine or suspension was levied by the NHL.
Nobody except Chara knows whether or not he was intentionally trying to injure Pacioretty. But Aulie finds it hard to believe the Bruins captain could have calculated the exact moment of impact to send Pacioretty flying into the partition.
ďI find it very hard to believe that he had it in his mind, that he was saying: ĎOK, I want to drive this guyís head into the divider,íĒ the Leafs defenceman said after the teamís morning skate Thursday.
ďI just think, as players, we donít have it memorized where all these glass dividers are. Iíve got hit into them before, itís just sometimes thatís where you get hit. Itís no different than when a player gets hit over the bench. You donít control where the benches are, sometimes thatís where you get hit.Ē
One thing for sure, the gruesome incident has once again put the issue of head hits in the publicís mind.
At 6-foot-7, Aulie is the closest thing the Leafs have to the 6-foot-9 Chara. And the Leafs rookie says itís tough being a tall guy when it comes to head hits.
ďItís been a constant battle my whole life even before all the head-hit stuff,Ē the 21-year-old rookie said. ďIíd always take penalties for getting elbows up or high-sticking. Itís been a constant battle to keep my hands down and keep my knees bent to stay under guys.Ē
So should height come into play when fines or suspensions are being levied?
ďI donít think the big guys should get a free ride. I think if thereís an intent to injure, then they should be punished. But lots of times Iíve felt forwards would run into me, or run their heads into my elbow or weíd be battling in the corner and theyíd get a stick unintentionally in the face or something and I would get penalized just because Iím taller and because theyíre putting their heads down.
ďI think thereís a fine line there, where you really have to find out if the intent to injure was there or not.Ē