A punishing check by Vancouver’s Aaron Rome on Boston right wing Nathan Horton has knocked both players out of the remainder of the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup Final.
The Bruins announced on Tuesday that Horton will miss the remainder of the best-of-seven championship series with a severe concussion and the NHL imposed a four-game suspension on Rome for his late hit in Monday’s 8-1 Boston victory.
It was the longest suspension ever imposed for a violation taking place in the Stanley Cup Final. There have been only three prior suspensions in finals history, each of them for only one game.
“It seems like four games is pretty excessive in the Stanley Cup Final,” Vancouver’s Keith Ballard said. “We’re losing a guy who has played in a lot of situations for us, so it’s tough.”
Vancouver was to carry a 2-1 series lead into Game 4 in Boston yesterday before the scene shifts back to Canada for Game 5 tomorrow.
Horton passed the puck and was skating at the Vancouver blue line when Rome flattened him with a devastating blow that sent Horton crumpling to the ice, hitting his head on the rink.
Horton was taken off on a stretcher and kept overnight at a hospital for examination and released on Tuesday morning.
“I thought it was a late hit,” NHL vice president of operations Mike Murphy said. “I thought that the body was contacted, but I also thought that the head was hit.
“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,” Murphy said.
The NHL banned Rome for the remainder of the series. If the -final does not reach the maximum seven games, Rome will finish his suspension at the start of the 2011-2012 season.
“Two factors were considered in reaching this decision,” Murphy said. “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.”
Rome received a five-minute interference penalty and game misconduct for the blow, which came only 5 minutes, 7 seconds into the opening period.
“I want to express my concern for Nathan’s well-being and wish him a quick and full recovery,” Rome said in a statement on Tuesday. “I try to play this game honestly and with integrity. As someone who has experienced this type of injury, I am well aware of its serious nature and have no desire for another player to experience it.”
The Bruins took inspiration from losing Horton to win the game in a rout after struggling to score in the first two games and will likely carry over the momentum now that Horton is sidelined for the remainder of the championship.
Horton, 26, played on the Bruins’ top line with left wing Milan Lucic, who exchanged text messages with Horton on Tuesday.
“He’s feeling good, feeling a lot better,” Lucic said on his 23rd birthday. “He sent me a birthday wish. It’s good he remembered my birthday after a concussion.”
Bruins coach Claude Julien said rookie Tyler Seguin is a possible replacement for Horton on the line with Lucic and center David Krejci.
“Glad to know that it’s not as bad as you always suspect,” Julien said. “Obviously a long road to recovery, but hopefully he gets better soon.”
Rome, 27, is a third-line defenseman for the Canucks with one goal in the playoffs. Horton netted eight goals and assisted on nine others for the Bruins and this year became the first man in NHL history with two seventh-game winning goals in the same playoff run.