Vancouver Canucks defenseman Aaron Rome has been suspended four games for his hit on the Bruins’ Nathan Horton in the first period of Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final last night at TD Garden, the NHL announced.
“The key components are the late hit — I had it close to a second late, we have our own formula in NHL hockey ops for determining late hits — and we saw the seriousness of the injury to Nathan on the ice,” said Mike Murphy, senior vice president of hockey operations. “That’s basically what we deliberated on.”
The ruling ends Rome’s season because only four games are left to be played, and the series could end in fewer games. If the series ends before Game 7, the suspension will carry over to the 2011-12 season.
Rome had a disciplinary hearing this morning with NHL senior vice president of hockey operations Mike Murphy. He received a five-minute interference penalty and a game misconduct at the time of the hit.
During his disciplinary hearing today, Rome told Murphy that he thought it was a hockey play. Murphy said the check did not fall under Rule 48, which penalizes players for blindside hits.
“Guys play all their lives to get to this series on both teams,” Murphy said. “They might never get back. I take it very seriously. I do not make light of this. I wish I wasn’t sitting here. I wish Aaron was playing. I wish Nathan was playing.”
Horton, who suffered a severe concussion and will miss the rest of the series, spent the night at Mass General Hospital, but has been released and is now recovering at home.
Alain Vigneault disagreed with the four-game suspension.
“We hope the young man regains his health. That’s of the utmost importance,” Vigneault said. “I do think it was a north-south play. [Horton] made a pass to [Milan] Lucic. He was looking at his pass. I think Aaron was a tad late. He’s not a dirty player. Never has been. Never will be. It was a hit that unfortunately turned bad.”
“He’s engaged in the hit,” Vigneault added. “I don’t know how the league could come up with that decision.”
The Bruins are now without their second-leading postseason goal scorer for the rest of the run. Michael Ryder, Rich Peverley, and Tyler Seguin are in the mix to replace Horton on the first line tomorrow. Ryder and Peverley took shifts on the line. Seguin was a healthy scratch, but the Bruins haven’t eliminated the rookie from consideration for first-line duty, primarily because of having the last change at home.
“These are tough decisions to make, especially in the Stanley Cup Final,” Julien said of the NHL’s ruling on Rome. “You’re suspending a guy for the rest of the series, so it’s not an easy decision to make. Being on the other side, I’m not going to say it’s not an easy thing to swallow for a team to have their player lost for the rest of the final. At the end of the day, I’m repeating what I said here. We need to clean up this game from those kinds of hits.”