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Rome Must Now Pay For His Actions

from Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail,

Rome will burn. Or at the very least, he will be singed by the NHL justice system, such as it is.

In a season when no single issue has dominated the NHL’s agenda like head shots and in a season when commissioner Gary Bettman took the unprecedented step of unveiling a new player safety department on the eve of the Stanley Cup final, how else can the NHL respond but to throw the book at Vancouver Canucks defenceman Aaron Rome for his vicious and late hit that levelled Nathan Horton of the Boston Bruins on Monday night in Game 3 here?

The concussive force of the blow to Horton’s head left him sprawled on the ice, dazed, his eyes glazed, unmoving. As silence settled over TD Garden, the outcome of the Bruins’ biggest game of the season – the third of the 2011 Stanley Cup final – was suddenly a lesser consideration, secondary to the health of their teammate.


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



It’s the NHL: Rome probably will play in Game 4.

The only logic to NHL rules enforcement is a complete lack of logic.

Posted by Paul Kelly from Syracuse, NY on 06/07/11 at 12:17 PM ET


Who knows what the NHL will do with Rome. No one can predict.

Best wishes to Horton as he has a severe concussion and will miss the rest of the playoffs.

Posted by AdamBruinsFan on 06/07/11 at 12:31 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

I will predict that Aaron Rome will score the game-winning goal in his first game back in these finals.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 06/07/11 at 12:34 PM ET

Leo_Racicot's avatar

How did Duhatschek feel about Horton getting involved with a fan after game 6 of the conference finals?

How did Duhatschek feel about Burrows biting/pretending to bite Bergeron in game 1?

The “absolute” rhetoric being concluded by writers and media brass in the last week or so has been nearly as comical as the NHL rulings themselves.

Posted by Leo_Racicot on 06/07/11 at 12:41 PM ET

Nathan's avatar

Here’s the problem. What was so bad about this hit, under the current rules?

Now, I am a strong advocate that this is another type of hit that should be banned from the game. I may be a sissy, but I think one of two things has to happen—either all head hits have to be taken out of the game, whether they are “clean” by our old and current standards, or players need to be allowed to get their hands and stick up high when someone is coming in for a hit as a way to protect themselves.

But under the current rules about blind side hits, Rome’s hit doesn’t qualify in any way.

It is not blind side. The hit was face-up between the players. I feel awful for Horton so I’m not trying to pull the whole “blame the victim” thing, but he was watching his pass. That’s a situation where, ideally, you’d like to see the passer stop admiring his pass, and you’d like to see the checker recognize the player can’t protect himself and ease up. But it all happens really fast, and fact of the matter is, with the current rules, it was a front-to-front, legal hit.

He didn’t jump. On the first CBC video I saw that was lower quality with a crappy angle, I thought he jumped. But when you see the HD video with the side angle from Versus, it’s clear his front foot stays planted at the point of contact, and he doesn’t come off the ice till the follow-through.

He didn’t get his elbows, hands, or stick up into Horton. Rome actually does a hell of a nice job keeping his arm tucked into his body, using his shoulder and upper arm to deliver the check.

Rome doesn’t go out of his way to make the hit. He doesn’t sprint across ice to make the hit.

The only thing, under the current, explicit rules, that Rome is guilty of, is blatant interference.

So, this is the problem. What do you suspend Rome for? The penalty on the ice was stiff and more than fair, if you go by the letter of the law.

Methinks Rome will be suspended, but he will be suspended more because the NHL screwed up not suspending Burrows, and because the NHL knows that hits like this have to be eliminated from the game, but can’t get its head out of its own ass long enough to come to a decision to just put it in the rulebook already.

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 06/07/11 at 12:57 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

I want Rome gone for the remainder of the series, but I’m afraid Nathan has a point.

I do disagree with a couple of things though:

But it all happens really fast, and fact of the matter is, with the current rules, it was a front-to-front, legal hit.

It was not a legal hit - the hit was delivered late.  For as fast as it goes, Horton knew Rome was there.  He also knew that he could get a pass off to the wing and make sure he’s not offsides because there wasn’t a legal check looming in front of him.  You’re kind of allowed to admire your own pass when there is no expectation that you should be hit.  Rome didn’t make a move to deliver the check until after the pass had left the stick.

Rome doesn’t go out of his way to make the hit.

The first thing necessitates the second.  Rome had no business laying that check in the first place, since it was late.  That means he did go out of his way to make it.

However, ultimately, you’re right.  The NHL rulebook has what the refs did as the right call at the time.  He was given a major for interference, which can be given under the following circumstances:

56.4 Major Penalty - The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a major penalty, based on the degree of violence, to a player guilty of interfering with an opponent

I would say the degree of violence was sufficient for the on-ice refs to make that call.

However, you have to assume a bit on supplemental discipline.  Fortunately, it’s an intentionally vaguely-written rule:

28.1 Supplementary Discipline - In addition to the automatic fines and suspensions imposed under these rules, the Commissioner may, at his discretion, investigate any incident that occurs in connection with any Pre-season, Exhibition, League or Playoff game and may assess additional fines and/or suspensions for any offense committed during the course of a game or any aftermath thereof by a player, goalkeeper, Trainer, Manager, Coach or non-playing Club personnel or Club executive, whether or not such offense has been penalized by the Referee.

If Bettman wants to fine a player for putting a puck over the glass for a delay-of-game, this rule actually gives him the power to do so.

The problem with such a vaguely-written rule is that it requires context and precedent to correctly frame it and make it make sense.  The NHL has done a poor job establishing precedent under this rule or making it clear that any play where there is intent to injure (which I feel Rome exhibited), would result in supplementary discipline.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 06/07/11 at 01:25 PM ET

Slumpy's avatar

Nice trade off for Van if they lose Rome for the rest of the Final and Boston loses Horton.
Bettman’s reign as commish has made the owners a lot richer and badly tarnished the games integrity since he took the job in 1993.
The old boys club in the front office should be swept out.

Posted by Slumpy from Under My Wheels on 06/07/11 at 01:41 PM ET

John W.'s avatar

To me the play was called correctly on the ice and it shouldn’t go beyond that.  It was definitely a late hit that resulted in serious injury, so 5 minutes for interference and a game is correct.  However, as far as supplemental discipline goes, it wasn’t blindside, he didn’t jump, and it was delivered with a shoulder, with most of the damage done to Horton resulting from his head hitting the ice.  No suspension should come from this under the current rules.

Posted by John W. from a bubble wrap cocoon on 06/07/11 at 02:08 PM ET

Nathan's avatar

JJ, I get what you’re saying, but I’m speaking of the hit “in isolation,” if that makes sense. Reason being, my point is these devestating hits have to be controlled regardless of where they fall under existing (inadequate) rules.

It was not a legal hit - the hit was delivered late.

Looking at the hit in isolation though—what about the hit was currently illegal? If Horton still had the puck, would the body check be a penalty? No, no way.

What made it a penalty was that what Rome did (forget it was body check) impeded Horton’s progress up ice despite the fact Horton didn’t have the puck.

Just think about the difference between this hit and Scott Stevens on Paul Kariya, and his other victims over the years… I’m not saying that those hits aren’t dangerous. I’ve made it very clear that I feel the game is just too fast to continue to allow hits like that to be made—we need to rewrite the rulebook and change the definition of what kind of hit is legal.

As you pointed out, there is a clause about interference that allows for a major penalty if the play is deemed excessively violent. That’s great, by my qualm is that this is too ambiguous. The protection of a player’s head should not be by vague proxy from some other rule that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with a play that is generally violent. It should be an explicit rule that stands alone from interference, boarding, charging, roughing, and every other penalty in the book.

The first thing necessitates the second.  Rome had no business laying that check in the first place, since it was late.  That means he did go out of his way to make it.

Again, that’s fair. But my intention was more to say, there is no unreasonable “distance traveled” by Rome to make the hit, as in charging. He doesn’t come from 40 feet across the ice. He stepped up on a guy entering his D zone, probably thinking, yeah, I’m hitting him late off the pass, but he’s going to drive my net, so I’ll stop him.

Even if that’s not what he’s thinking, there is arguably a legitimate “hockey” reason for what Rome did, unlike skating full speed blue line to blue line to lay someone out when the puck is 50 feet away.

And as you pointed out last in your post, the supplemental discipline section is so vague. IMO, it is too vague. Hockey players are like kids. If you set well-defined boundaries for them, they will generally respect them (consider how rare of an event being offside is given the number of times it can happen; consider how rare an intentional high stick is any more). If you leave vague boundaries that are difficult, if not impossible to interpret, they are going to test and push those boundaries until they cross the line, just so they can see where that line is.

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 06/07/11 at 03:20 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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