BOSTON – Vancouver Canucks defenseman Aaron Rome spoke Sunday for the first time since being suspended for the remainder of the Stanley Cup final five days ago and it’s clear the passage of time has not changed his view that the ruling and sentence were unfair.
And while he feels for Nathan Horton, who, with a severe concussion, is also out of the series, Rome showed no remorse for his actions.
“If I could go back, I’d wish he didn’t get hurt,” Rome said, “but I don’t think it would change my decision on the play.”
Not surprisingly, Rome laid some of the blame for the hit at the feet or Horton, essentially repeating the age-old cliche that players who “admire” (not Rome’s words) their passes do so at their own peril.
“There has to be some accountability on the part of the player skating up the middle of the ice maybe with his head down, not looking,” Rome said. “If it’s half a second earlier or quarter of a second earlier, maybe I’m not in this situation. But the game happens fast and, for me, I’ve got to play on the edge. I guess that time it was a little bit over the edge.”
Rome was particularly upset in light of the fact that he missed time after being hit from behind by Jamie McGinn during the Western Conference final and McGinn wasn’t suspended while he received the stiffest sentence in the history of the Stanley Cup final.
“(The McGinn hit) was the type of hit where a guy is vulnerable and I saw him coming, but there’s nothing you can do,” Rome said. “Mine, they say it was late and it’s arbitrary. What is late? That’s a decision they made and I have to respect that, but I definitely don’t agree with it. You just have to look back to late in the season, I’m not going to name names, but there was the same incident with an interference penalty and there was a severe injury out of it and there was no suspension at all.”
Chances are, Rome was referring to the notorious Zdeno Chara hit on Max Pacioretty March 8 in which Chara received a major for interference after hitting Pacioretty into a stanchion at the Bell Centre, but escaped supplementary discipline.
Rome received the hefty suspension despite the fact he had never before been called on the carpet for NHL discipline and does not have the reputation of being a dirty player.
“You see other instances and you hear from the league, ‘This player has a clean record and he doesn’t play the game dirty,’ and they take that into account,” Rome said. “But for whatever reason that wasn’t taken into account this time.”
Rome said he considered appealing the suspension after he learned of its severity, but decided not to, largely because he didn’t want to put any more focus on himself during a time when his team’s energies should be devoted to winning a Stanley Cup.
“I don’t want to take away from what’s going on in the final with my teammates,” Rome said. “I don’t want to be a distraction in the least bit. I’m a team player and it’s unfortunate. I don’t think any call has ever been overturned by an appeal anyway, so the chances of getting it overturned were slim to none.”
Predictably, Rome said it has been excruciatingly difficult to watch his teammates play this series without him. Even though it is guaranteed he will not play in a game the rest of this season, he has been taking part in workouts with the Canuck black aces after the roster plays have practiced.
“It’s tough,” said Rome, who got his chance to play in the final after Dan Hamhuis was injured in Game 1. “I couldn’t put it into words for you. You work all season and all playoffs and for myself a guy being in and out of the lineup, getting a chance to play every day and working your (tail) off to be out there at this time of the season, it’s disappointing, but for me you just have to try to look at the bright side and let it make you stronger.”
Rome has sent a text message to Horton saying he was sorry about the severity of the injury and the outcome of it, but hasn’t spoken with Horton either by telephone or in person yet and has not heard from Horton either.
“It’s an emotional time,” Rome said. “I mean, he’s not going to be able to play in the series, either. I understand being on that side of hits where you’re pissed off about it and he wants to be out there like anybody else, so I understand that.”