Aaron Rome exits after his hit on Nathan Horton last night.

The Wheel of Justice was given a spin around 11 a.m. ET this morning, and then around 12:30 we all used the Internet for the last time. That’s when Sportnet’s Dan Murphy reported Rome will be suspended for four games following his hit on Nathan Horton last night.

I’ll pause for a second to allow you time to reassemble your keyboard. As was the case with the nightly headshot throughout the season, Rome’s hit immediately polarizes opinion. Those who choose to reside in the hockey dark ages also reside in Vancouver, and they’ll soon be typing “HORTON SHOULD KEEP HIS HEAD UP!!!!!!!!!!11@” in the comments section below.

So before we get to that fun, here’s the hit one more time.

Rome was given the rare penalty of a five-minute major for interference, and a game misconduct. Meanwhile, Horton–who’s Boston’s second-leading scorer with 17 points in these playoffs–left the ice on a stretcher in what was a scary scene after his eyes were glazed, and his arm eerily hung in the air. He was examined at a local hospital and released this morning after being diagnosed with a severe concussion, which clearly means he’s out for the remainder of the playoffs.

There’s one indisputable fact about this hit that will probably get disputed anyway: it was late. Those defending Rome will state the obvious and say that hockey is a fast-paced game, and that stopping momentum in such a small time frame isn’t easy. They’ll also use another tired, dark ages line like “he was finishing his check.”

Sure he was, and sure it’s not easy, but there’s a time limit in which finishing a check with that kind of ferocity isn’t acceptable. There’s no shades of gray in this time frame either, and one second is too much. Should Horton have been more aware in that area of the ice? Absolutely, but similar to how it’s the responsibility of the player to control his stick, it’s also an important responsibility to control the body. Rome needed to be aware of the developing play, and change his course of action. Elite athletes–and anyone who’s in the NHL is elite to some degree–are capable of this.

Beyond the lateness of the hit a layer of murkiness develops, which is typical of most questionable hits. The casual onlooker sees the follow through of a hit, and accuses the hittee of leaving his feet to make contact. This isn’t the case here, as Rome’s skates were on the ice at the point of contact.

And was it a blindside hit? It’s pretty difficult to throw down the blindside card if the targeted player is intentionally looking in the opposite direction, and is therefore making himself blind. It’s also difficult to distinguish where the initial point of contact lies. I’ve watched this replay far too many times, and I still see Rome’s shoulder hitting Horton’s head, with most of the damage undoubtedly done when his head then hit the ice. But I can see how others would argue shoulder-to shoulder.

The main crux and point of contention however isn’t the blindside argument, or whether or not Rome left his feet. The primary reason for the suspension is that Rome was outside of that area which constitutes a hit within the proper time frame. It’s impossible to remove emotion from the equation, but if you squint really hard and hold your breath maybe that will work, and then you’ll see that four games is a little steep for a late hit. Missing two Stanley Cup Final games would have been sufficient.

The league made an example of a player who wouldn’t have been missed anyway.

UPDATE: The league confirmed the four-game suspension, and Mike Murphy issued a statement saying that the lateness of the hit was a primary focus.

“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. 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.”

Rome’s agent Jarrett Bousquet also told The Sporting News that a move to appeal the suspension is under consideration.

Comments (18)

  1. If they’re suspending based on the injury, not the hit, then why wasn’t Chara suspended for his hit on Pacioretty? How about McGinn’s hit on Rome, which was from behind and took Rome out of a few games, but did not result in suspension.

    I will say 2 things about this hit. The first, it wasn’t clean. It wasn’t as bad as some I’ve seen, but it was a little late and a bit too much aiming for the head. Had Horton been looking forward, he probably would have been okay, but that isn’t too much of an excuse, as his bell would have been rung, so to speak.

    The second thing is that it doesn’t matter how dirty it was, because the NHL has no consistency with disciplinary decisions. They’ll suspend one guy for a hit, but let 6 others go for a similar incident. They’ll suspend based on a hit without a resulting injury, or an injury instead of the hit – but then they’ll change their mind the next time something happens.

    If you look at this hit on its own, it deserves the suspension. But when you compare it to the rest of the year, it’s ludicrous.

  2. “then why wasn’t Chara suspended for his hit on Pacioretty? ”

    As Cox – and lord help me from quoting HIM – points out, if we start tossing that bit of stupidity out as a defence for every hit, then it’s never going to change the game at all.

    Should Chara have been suspended? Sure. But it doesn’t change that this was a late hit to the head that was penalised with a game misconduct. Four games would have been the minimum.

    You have to start somewhere. Better now than never.

  3. NHL is scripted, don’t be surprised when the Bruins win the cup.

    The league won’t suspend Chara, he’s their captain and best Defenceman.

    League ignores Horton spraying a fan with water and tossing the bottle, can’t suspend him for game 7 vs Tampa Bay, he’s their best scorer.

    Boston player gets injured by an old fashioned hockey play? OUTRAGE!

  4. Ah, I see the tinfoil hats are on. Good, good….

  5. rp, you forgot to mention that Colin Campbell is Gregory Campbell’s father and that Gary Bettman hates Canada.


  7. “Should Chara have been suspended? Sure. But it doesn’t change that this was a late hit to the head that was penalised with a game misconduct.”

    Completely agree. However, that is small consolation given that the exact words from Murphy regarding the Rome hit were: “Two factors were considered in reaching this decision.The hit by Rome was clearly beyond what is acceptable in terms of how late it was delivered after Horton had released the puck and it caused a significant injury.”

    I can’t help but laugh when I read this and compare with what he stated about the Chara hit. Both hits were far too late. It doesn’t minimize how wrong it was for Horton to be hurt on the play to question how it is that suddenly Murphy chooses this criteria in which to view a hit. I feel bad for Horton because he’s had an amazing playoffs. I just can’t believe how quickly Bruins fans and Murphy in particular have 180′d on this issue in the last 24 hours.

  8. [...] 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 [...]

  9. First off the hit was clean and should have gotten an interference call at most. Second Horton needs to learn to keep his head up you are taught that in peewee lol. Lastly the Chara hit was clean too, but it is too bad the NHL hasn’t fixed the partitions in the board to make them on an angle so you don’t just stop dead like that. Oh and COLON CAMPBELL is a tard!!

  10. This is just another brainfart from the wheel of justice !!! 1 game Max. For this would a been a good call!!!! Pretty sure daddy Campbell had is say on this… Pathetic!!

  11. This was not a dirty hit, besides being late. it is hockey(a contact sport). He had his head down and rome just finished his check. You want to complain about physical play in a contact sport then you probably should be watching soccer or basketball instead. Maybe next time horton will learn to keep his head up. Boston fans please stop complaining, you get everything in your favor, which seems to happen for teams full of little girls.

  12. Yes it was a late hit…..but I think because of the speed and the way the hit went it surprised the ref.Most of the damage was when Hortons head hit the ice….not the shoulder hitting the body,,,hell I’ve taken afew of those in my years of playing.But hitting your head that hard has to rattle the skull quite abit.And don’t try to put those other hits in the same category as this one.

  13. I feel bad for Horton because he got rocked on the play. It looked bad and yes the hit was late. But, Rome was not aiming for the head of Thorton and it was a clean hit. His hands stayed down and his feet never left the ice. I do not agree with the suspension, but what can you do I guess?

  14. How many open ice hits have we seen in the past go without a suspension? And all because they say the player had his head down or looking back admiring his pass. Also over the last number of years, always told injury did not factor into the length of suspension. All of a sudden it does, because they still have an allegiance to Colin Campbell and his kid’s team. Also heard Murphy spoke to Brian Burke about the suspension. WHY??????? He is a GM of an opposing team, and a team he was fired from, and has ill feelings for. How is that fair and ethical. The hit was late and thje injury unintensionable. I agree there could have been a 1 or 2 game suspension for the late hit.

  15. Please let’s stop with the west coast tears ,from Torres running around trying to hurt people,Burrows snacking on fingers and # 40 acting like an idiot now this obvious late hit taking out the opponents top center ,losing a no name 7th d man seems like a pretty good trade off ! So the team that has gotten away with everything up until now should stop with the crying ,things should have been worse

  16. I understand the fact that the hit was late and that the league wants to stop head shots, but the suspension is possibly too long. Funny when Scott Stevens feasted on players in a position unable to defend themselves it was considered a great hit!!! My how the times have changed.

  17. [...] crime was his timing, not his delivery. He was nearly a full second late, which resulted in a four-game suspension, and Rome potentially missing out on every hockey players’ dream of doing a few laps around [...]

  18. [...] Rome’s hit on Nathan Horton that resulted in the end of both players’ Stanley Cup Final earned Rome a suspension primarily because it was late. Discussion of Rule 48 inevitably surfaced, but that discussion was minimal because while Rome [...]

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