BOSTON — With a few rare exceptions in the Vancouver dressing room, pretty much everyone was in agreement that Aaron Rome’s hit on Nathan Horton in Monday night’s Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final was a late hit and contacted the head.
Today the NHL proved it was in agreement with that description, as NHL Vice-President of Hockey Operations Mike Murphy handed down a four-game suspension for the defenseman.
“I probably viewed it like most of you did,” said Murphy between team media availabilities on the campus of Boston University. “I thought it was a late hit. I thought that the body was contacted. But I also thought that the head was hit. It caused a serious injury to Nathan Horton. So the key components are: the late hit, which I had it close to a second late. We have our own formula at NHL hockey ops for determining late hits, and it was late. We saw the seriousness of the injury with Nathan on the ice last night.
“That’s basically what we deliberated on. We tried to compare it with some of the other ones in the past. But it stands alone. It’s why we made the ruling.”
Given the length of the suspension and the importance of the upcoming games with Vancouver ahead in the series, 2-1, Murphy agreed that this suspension is the next step toward exacting punishment that will finally reduce the number of hits to the head and serious injuries among players.
“Without question, we have. And I think we have ramped it up through the year,” said Murphy about sending a message. “I think, you know, most of what I know and what I decided on today I’ve learned from Colin Campbell. I know he learned a lot from Brian Burke.
“This has to do with what we talk about almost on a nightly basis in the Toronto video room when we have multiple clips, not to this severity, but we have a group of people that share ideas and share thoughts. We often get asked about panels. Yeah, we have a panel of people that I discuss this with, and a lot of people outside the panel. As difficult as it was, this was the right thing to do.”
The Bruins were all diplomatic with their reactions to the suspension, basically saying the same things they’ve said in the past when an opponent or a teammate has been suspended — the league made its decision and it’s time to move on.
The only difference here is that the Bruins have to move on without their most prolific offensive right winger.