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Despite Rome ban, bad deal for Bruins

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Is trading Aaron Rome for Nathan Horton a trade you would make?

Didn’t think so. But we’re not the the Vancouver Canucks, who will gladly lose the journeyman defenseman for the remainder of the Stanley Cup Final, knowing the Boston Bruins will be without Nathan Horton, one of their top-six forwards, for the remainder of the series thanks to Rome’s crushing, late hit in Game 3.

Listening to each team is useless in this instance. The Bruins have been robbed of one of their top players, so they aren’t in a forgiving mood. The Canucks are singing that ‘Gee, Aaron’s a great guy, not a dirty player” dirge.

That drops the problem into the lap of the NHL’s Hockey Operations department, which is stuck in a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. Rome was tossed from the game on the hit, considered late by just about everyone not wearing a Canucks sweater. But if the punishment is to fit the crime, shouldn’t the Canucks lose a player akin to Horton’s value for the remainder of the Final. Can anyone say the Canucks aren’t benefiting in this “trade”?

 

Yes, it’s a nightmare for the NHL, but there is no precedent for any other action than disciplining the offending party. No one will say “Rome can play, but you lose Alex Burrows for the rest of the series.”

NHL Vice President Mike Murphy is a man of integrity and intellect, and made the best decision he could under the current rules. Perhaps new discipline czar Brendan Shanahan will look into making sure a team doesn’t benefit from illegal actions when he sinks his teeth into one of the most thankless jobs in sports next season.

“I take it very seriously, very seriously,” Murphy said. “Aaron Rome is an important part of the Vancouver team. Guys play all their lives to get to this series on both teams, and you might never get back. So I take it very seriously. That’s all I can say. I do not make light of this. I wish I wasn’t sitting here. I wish Aaron was playing, and I wish Nathan was playing.”

As for the Rome-Horton situation, Murphy knew something had to be done.

“I probably viewed it like most of you did,” Murphy told reporters Tuesday. “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 Operations 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,” Murphy continued. “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.”

So, what went into the ruling? Murphy said multiple discussions and time cemented what needed to be done.

“First of all, I don’t make any assessments immediately,” Murphy said. “I need to look at things in a little cooler temperature than the arena. You never want to say something that’s wrong, especially in the severity of these type of things where we’ve got one young man in the hospital and one young man taken out of the Final.
There’s no lightness about it. There’s no fun to this. There’s no enjoyment to this. Nobody wins in this. Everybody loses. The fans lose. We lost two good hockey players.

“I sit down and I look at it and I get a gut feel for the play and say, ‘What exactly happened here?’ I look through it, look through all the angles, look at all the different network feeds. I start asking questions of people I have confidence in that can give me their side of information, their information, Terry Gregson, Kris King. Unfortunately I’m not able to use the wisest of them all, Colin Campbell, right now.  He’s been eliminated from the series and not involved. I have no conversations with him. But this is what the number was when we kind of went through it and the way I felt it.  That’s why it was assessed.”

As for Shanahan, who recently had disciplinary duties added to his job description, Murphy said he was one of the official he spoke with regarding the incident.

“Brendan has been on our team in Hockey Operations for two years,” Murphy said. “We talk to Brendan on almost every issue we have. As I said, every night we have eight, 10 issues come out of there. Brendan is on there. We take input.  The way Colin operates, he says ‘Take a look at this, give me your thoughts.’  Last night I sat with Brendan, we discussed the play, the pros, the cons, what they saw, what they felt.

“Guys like Brendan and Rob Blake, you can’t get better people involved. They’re just recently retired. They’ve lived these rules. They’ve lived this game. They’ve lived it at this level, the finals.”

But Nathan Horton won’t get the chance to experience it anymore and that handicaps the Bruins a lot more than losing Rome hurts the Canucks.

Filed in: NHL Teams, Boston Bruins, Vancouver Canucks, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: aaron+rome, nathan+horton

Comments

Nathan's avatar

This is all the fault of the NHL and PA. They have dragged their feet on getting serious about protecting players.

The NHL wouldn’t be in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” position if they had hashed out a proper system of supplemental discipline and proper definitions of what hits are legal and what are illegal last off-season.

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 06/08/11 at 10:20 AM ET

SnLO's avatar

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 06/08/11 at 08:20 AM ET

Though I agree with you regarding powers-that-be and the issue of addressing head-hunting, but a late hit has always been a late hit. This instance was just poor judgment on Rome’s part. No amount of league regulation would have changed the occurrence of this circumstance. Rome delivered a late hit that has never been acceptable. The difference between ten years ago and today is that the late hit has resulted in a suspension, and in the SCF, no less. I would also argue that the public outcry for some form of punitive action on hard hits (to the head) that result in some form of injury has contributed to the NHL having “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” environment in its rulings. Basically saying that whatever they do or don’t do, it will not be enough or too much for either the parties involved or observing.

Posted by SnLO from the sub great-white north on 06/08/11 at 11:04 AM ET

Avatar

Hey Nathan and SnLO

Excellent points from you guys.

First, I agree that the players have to take more responsibility here. There really needs to be some mutual respect among the players that makes it common sense that some hits are just not acceptable because of the potential to really harm a fellow player. For too long, the players have gone about their business and allowed the league to clean it up.

Second, while an increased awareness of the ability to decimate an opponent needs to cognizant to all players, hockey is a fast, violent game and there are going to be hits like this. But making them the exception, rather than the rule,

What do you guys think of the idea used in youth hockey of having a stop sign on the back of a player’s jersey, right at the collar. See the sign, don’t carry through with the hit.

My concern always has been that we are going to see a player crushed into the boards who becomes paralyzed.

—Phil Coffey

Posted by pcoffey on 06/08/11 at 03:14 PM ET

SnLO's avatar

What do you guys think of the idea used in youth hockey of having a stop sign on the back of a player’s jersey, right at the collar. See the sign, don’t carry through with the hit.
My concern always has been that we are going to see a player crushed into the boards who becomes paralyzed.

I hope that we never see the occurrence of severe injuries in hockey, but I’m realistic enough to know that accidents happen. It’s what we do to mitigate those occurrences that counts. That being said, I like the stop signs for youth hockey. Those are kids and they are learning the game. It is designed to help with situational recognition and developing good habits. Anything that is an effective teaching aid can only be good for their development and continued participation in the game. Something like the stop sign is especially important now that USAH has decreed to raise the checking level from Peewee to Bantam; the kids now have less time to practice and gain experience with the physical aspects of the game (but that is another topic entirely).

If you are suggesting adding a stop sign to the back of a professional player’s jersey, I don’t think that would really be practical. First they are professionals, so they are supposed to be at a level of expertise and skill that few are able to ascend. So let’s hold them to that standard. Second, it creates too subjective of an argument for basis of penalty / supplementary discipline:
“Could the player see the sign before he made the hit?”
“I don’t know, let go to video review and have a panel discussion to discuss our interpretation of his perspective.”
I think it just exacerbates the issue of after-the-fact game rulings with 20/20 hindsight and second guessing. Thereby creating a hostile environment where everyone is always looking over their shoulder at how something they did could be interpreted tomorrow

Posted by SnLO from the sub great-white north on 06/08/11 at 03:50 PM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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