Any act worthy of a suspension during the Stanley Cup Final is clearly a serious offence. As much as the league and its gaggle of dart throwing spinsters would like you to believe that the same act deemed to be a suspension in the preseason will also be a suspension during the pinnacle of the league’s schedule, that’s simply not true.
Like the referee who buries his whistle in his pocket during the final minutes of a close game, the league knows what’s at stake. There needs to be some degree of maliciousness involved to warrant a suspension during the Stanley Cup Final, and that evidently doesn’t include biting another man’s finger.
Aaron Rome’s hit on Nathan Horton and the resulting four-game suspension may be fresh in our minds as the latest head shot debate rages on, but he certainly isn’t the first player to be suspended during the Stanley Cup Final. And with players continuing to lunge at each other’s heads as they have all season, he probably won’t be the last either.
The length of Rome’s punishment is the longest suspension ever handed out in the Stanley Cup Final, although there have been other instances of punishments during the Conference Finals that spilled over. The most notable example is Claude Lemieux’s attempt to re-design Kris Draper’s face in 1996, a move that earned a two-game suspension.
There’s been only three other suspensions in the final, each lasting only a single game. The dubious list consists of one jerk frequent offender, and two others who like Rome weren’t exactly known for flirting with the line separating clean and illegal.
In all its black and blue glory, here’s the brief list that Rome now leads.
Chris Pronger being Chris Pronger
Ahh yes, the good ol’ elbow to the back of the head trick.
This cheapshot occurred near the end of Game 3 during Anaheim’s eventual five-game series win over Ottawa to claim the cup in 2007. It was the only game the Ducks lost in the series, as they won Game 4 without Pronger, and then throttled Ottawa 6-2 in the final game.
Ville Nieminen crunches Vincent Lecavalier
Unfortunately the visual stimulation ends here. It seems Youtube frowns on archiving historical images of violence in the Stanley Cup Final.
In 2004 during a tight series between the Lightning and Flames that saw Tampa Bay prevail in seven games, Calgary defenceman Ville Nieminen made sure that Vincent Lecavalier received a close view of the glass. Nieminen ran Lecavalier from behind in Game 4, leaving the centre bloody, groggy, and in need of stitches, but the good Canadian kid was right back in the lineup for the next game.
Here’s Colin Campbell sharing the logic behind his decision during a time when the Wheel of Justice was just in its initial phases of construction.
“Nieminen used his forearm to deliver a forceful hit from behind to the head of his opponent. This hit was more severe than any of the other plays that were brought to our attention during the final. This was a hit that clearly crossed the line and was directed at the head. Even if Lecavalier is able to play in Game 5, this type of hit must be subject to supplemental discipline.”
Jiri Fischer makes history
When Jiri Fischer laid the lumber to Tommy Westlund’s face in Game 4 of the 2002 final between Detroit and Carolina, he instantly put himself in the record books.
Westlund needed five stitches, while Fischer would unfortunately miss out on his chance to do a few laps around the ice with Lord Stanley’s mug. The league’s punishment forced Fischer to watch his teammates have their moment of glory after Detroit’s 3-1 Game 5 win that clinched the cup.