So Aaron Rome will miss the rest of the Stanley Cup final after he was suspended four games for his interference hit on Nathan Horton in the first period of Game 3. But while it’ll go down in the books as being a suspension for a late hit, it’s really a lengthy suspension because Rome is the perfect fall boy for this kind of incident.
Think about it. This is now the longest suspension in Stanley Cup final history. For all the haymakers, elbows, slashes, cross-checks, hits-from-behind, bites and other illegal infractions that have dotted the NHL’s final over the years, this was deemed most heinous.
As Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler used to say on Saturday Night Live: Really!?
What Rome is actually getting suspended for is the fact he’s a depth - and not a top-line - defenseman. It would be difficult for anyone to convince me Kevin Bieksa or Zdeno Chara would have received four games for this hit. Heck, it would have been surprising if either got even one in the same scenario.
The NHL is rightly trying to curb head injuries and while that is a noble cause we can’t be handing out lengthy suspensions for very borderline hits that would be completely clean if delivered .4 seconds earlier - and even the lateness of it is up for debate. As the disciplinarian for the series, Mike Murphy, told the media, this play had nothing to do with Rule 49 against blindside hits because it was North-South; this was four games for an interference play that had serious repercussions.
The fact Horton sustained a severe concussion didn’t help Rome, but it also didn’t play against Zdeno Chara when he hit Montreal’s Max Pacioretty into a stanchion earlier this season, so I don’t see the relevance. Just as Chara didn’t intend to injure Pacioretty, neither did Rome on Horton.
It may be curious to some, but in fact, when you strap two sharpened blades onto the feet of 10 men who skate around a fixed ice surface hitting each other at 100 miles per hour and carry large pieces of taped-up lumber, injuries are bound to happen. Players should be suspended (and for a long time) for egregious acts of violence, you know, like taking one of those pieces of lumber and cracking a guy over the skull. Players should be suspended for hits from behind and fist-flying charges - plays that are not designed to get the puck or force the opponent to pay a physical toll, but instead can only result in injury or are a great risk of one.
But Rome’s borderline interference? I can agree with the five minutes and I can even agree with tossing him out of the game if that’s the referee’s mandate. Fine.
But I cannot agree with suspending Rome for being Rome and not being, say, Chris Pronger.
This article was originally published in Metro News. For more hockey commentary, check out Metro Sports.