NHL gets free pass on Rome hit


Photo: Yahoo Sports

It’s about as close to a “get out of jail free” card as the NHL could get. When the Canucks’ Aaron Rome decided to step up and clobber Nathan Horton last night, everyone immediately knew the hit was questionable. It’s become engrained in our minds (a good thing, perhaps?).

Upon further review, and some slo-mo replays, it looked like Rome’s hit was a bit late. Though I’ve seen much, much worse over the past few years.

The result was scary, but I wouldn’t call Rome a vicious player by any means.

Either way, the league’s disciplinarian Mike Murphy is faced with one of the easiest suspensions he’ll ever hand out. Not because the hit was easy to categorize as dirty, it wasn’t. In realtime it’s actually a  pretty tough call to make.

The reason why it’s so easy to suspend over a hit like that, is because Aaron Rome delivered it.

Over these playoffs, Nathan Horton has accumulated a solid 17 points. That’s more NHL points than Rome has gathered in his entire career, regular season included. So to suspend him for 1, 2, or 3 games is really nothing. The Canucks won’t be in rough shape due to Rome’s absence, and it shouldn’t break the series for them.

Horton, on the other hand, is one of the key offensive producers for the Bruins. And with him gone, their top line takes a major hit. This is why Rome’s own coach and teammates were quick to classify his hit as late – in other words “illegal.”

Personally, where question marks arise, is whether Kevin Bieksa or Christian Ehrhoff would receive the same treatment from their own organization, and furthermore, the NHL.

This isn’t to say Aaron Rome was thrown under the bus or anything. I don’t believe that’s the case at all.

I just believe it was an easy call to make for Vigneault and the Canucks considering Rome’s limited role on the club – many of us would probably act the same. And I don’t want this to seem like a rip on Aaron Rome for being a terrible hockey player or anything – he isn’t.

Anyone who can make it into the lineup for a Stanley Cup contender has my respect. It’s just, he simply isn’t a major factor in the teams’ success compared to what Horton brings to the table for the Bruins.

As for the NHL, they get to hit the EASY button on this one. Suspend Aaron Rome, and “make an example”, the Canucks won’t really complain – replacing him in the lineup should be easy – and the world will keep spinning.

Had Ehrhoff or Bieksa delivered the hit, things would be quite different. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be specific to team or position.

Had Kesler, Chara, Lucic, or anyone of a high skill level delivered a hit like that, Murphy’s job becomes a bit tougher. Now you’re talking about real punishment, and potentially altering the outcome of the series.

Vigneault (or whoever) isn’t easily throwing the word “late” around if one of his top pairing defenceman delivers a hit like that. How could he?

The only way justice (if that’s what you’re after) would actually be served in this situation, is if a top-line player from the Canucks was forced out of the lineup. And since that’s impossible, the NHL gets the privilege of making an easy decision this time around.

I’m still a little in the air about the hit itself. I do believe it was dirty, but slow motion makes “late” look really late. So as much as I think (and know) Rome should be suspended, I’m not ready to throw the Matt Cooke label on him or anything. And to be frank, I’ve noticed a lot of people voicing their opinion that they believe the hit was clean.

While I’m not sure I’m in the same boat, I can sympathize with folks who are afraid to see hitting taken away from the game – which is likely where we’re headed in the longterm.

The hit definitely stirred the Bruins and woke them up – anyone who denies that clearly hasn’t played a competitive game of hockey before. And as for the gameplan the B’s employed afterward, it was perfect. They hit everyone and everything in what turned out to be one of my favorite games of the playoffs so far, despite the 8-1 score.

It’s unfortunate that someone was injured along the way. But (and Ryan Kesler can back me up on this) sometimes, that’s just hockey.

Email ryanfancey@gmail and follow on twitter/maplestirup