The NHL came down hard on Canucks defenseman Aaron Rome Tuesday, suspending him for the rest of the Stanley Cup Finals after an ill-timed open-ice hit on Bruins forward Nathan Horton.
Rome, who delivered the hit early in the first period of Game 3 on Monday night, was tossed out of the game with a five-minute interference penalty.
Horton laid motionless on the ice for several moments before being taken away on a stretcher. He had attempted to get up after speaking to doctors but was carried away as a precautionary measure. The most recent reports are that he is moving all extremities but has a severe concussion.
On Tuesday, Aaron Rome issued a statement.
“I want to express my concern for Nathan’s well being and wish him a quick and full recovery,” he said in the statement. “I try to play this game honestly and with integrity. As someone who has experienced this type of injury, I am well aware of its serious nature and have no desire for another player to experience it. I will not take away my teammates’ focus on the task at hand and intend to speak at an appropriate time in future.”
Both teams continued to discuss the late hit Tuesday in Boston, but disagree on the severity of the suspension.
One thing they do agree on: this is a rallying point.
“You definitely want to win for a guy like that. (Horton’s) done so much for our team this year, getting us to this point,” Bruins forward Milan Lucic told reporters in Boston. “He’s made a big impact in my life as a good friend and as a linemate. You can definitely use that as motivation.”
Horton (19GP: 8G, 9A) has been a key contributor to Boston’s playoff run thus far, scoring huge OT playoff goals and leading the Bruins this far.
The Canucks will try to rally around their own teammate, who they feel may have been a little late – but did not target the head.
“In my opinion, it’s not the right call,” Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault told reporters in Boston. “I do think at the end of the day it was a north/south play… (Horton) was looking at his pass. Aaron was a tad late. Aaron is not a dirty player.”
Vigneault pointed to a Ben Eager hit-from-behind on Rome in round three against the Sharks – a hit that resulted in a mild concussion for Rome, but no suspension.
The Canucks’ Daniel Sedin – also victim of a Ben Eager hit-from-behind – was perhaps the most poignant on the subject.
“Rome was killed in San Jose and nothing happened,” said Sedin. “We’re thinking of Rome right now. He’s a hard-working guy, great teammate and a friend. He’s going to be out of the playoffs. It should be a rallying cry for us, too.”
Both the Bruins and Canucks will look to settle this on the scoreboard, but one thing remains clear – Boston loses a first-line forward. Vancouver loses a sixth defenseman.