Rome suspension strong statement by NHL

Bruins forward Nathan Horton is carried off the ice by trainers after being hit by Canucks...

Bruins forward Nathan Horton is carried off the ice by trainers after being hit by Canucks defenceman Aaron Rome during Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final in Boston, Mass., June 6, 2011. (BRIAN SNYDER/Reuters)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:21 PM ET

BOSTON - So the NHL's Wheel of Justice spun and after a final "clack, clack...clack," came to rest on four.

It is a shocking number, really.

And it amounts to zero, the number of future appearances Vancouver Canucks defenceman Aaron Rome will make in this Stanley Cup final. The four-game suspension Rome received Tuesday for his late hit on Boston Bruins forward Nathan Horton five minutes into Game 3 effectively means he's been kicked out of the series.

For all those waiting and wondering and begging for the NHL to come up with more severe punishment of on-ice transgressions, your patience has paid off and prayers have been answered.

They've been answered on the biggest stage, where the importance of the games and what is it stake is often a mitigating factor in sometimes turning a blind eye to mayhem on the ice.

Four games is the longest suspension ever handed out in a Stanley Cup final. The last player suspended was Anaheim Ducks defenceman Chris Pronger for his forearm shiver/guillotine on Ottawa Senators forward Dean McAmmond in 2007, a hit left McAmmond looking like he had run into a clothesline while riding a bike.

Pronger's hit was an elbow to the head, a malicious targeting. Rome's hit was late, but you could argue that it was a just a hard bodycheck that was delivered a second late on an unsuspecting opponent.

It resulted in a horrible injury to Horton, now out for the series with a concussion (which the Bruins, perhaps stealing a page from the Montreal Canadiens playbook with Max Pacioretty, made sure everyone knew about before Rome had his 11 a.m. call on the carpet Tuesday).

Pronger got one game.

Rome got four times as much for a play that was less than a quarter as bad.

So, this must might the legacy for the Crime and Punishment duo of NHL vice-president Mike Murphy and his boss, Colin Campbell, possibly the last judgement they hand down. Murphy made the call because Campbell's son, Gregory, plays for the Bruins, reducing Colin to the role of the anxious hockey dad.

Next season, former player Brendan Shanahan takes over the discipline portfolio.

With the momentum for change building over the last couple of seasons, with more attention paid to concussions and the rising sense of danger and violence, Murphy, in what might be his last chance, made a statement.

"This is my standard," said Murphy. "I was given the responsibility to deal with his series ... I was told, 'You have to take care of this series if something like this happens, it's your responsibility.' I have to look at myself and make sure I'm doing the right thing because I know the severity of what we've just done there.

"I know the severity with Nathan in the hospital and Aaron Rome not being able to play in the final. So this is mine. No one else's."

With the NHL's general managers poised to meet here Wednesday, Murphy's strong statement is proof the momentum is there to carry through with a mandate for Shanahan, the new safety czar, to build on what Murphy established Tuesday.

This is one of those situations where nobody is going to be happy. Some of those loopy Vancouver Canucks fans (every team has them) will be adjusting their tinfoil hats and saying it's another example that the hockey establishment out to get them.

Well, the Canucks lost a seventh defenceman for the final (he went into the lineup when Dan Hamhuis was injured in Game 1 and actually ranks seventh among Vancouver defencemen in ice time in the playoffs) and the Boston Bruins are down a first-line winger who has scored three game-winning goals (two of them in Game 7s).

The Canucks are winning this trade off.

Murphy did a good job in a thankless job.

"There's no lightness about it. There's no fun to this. There's no enjoyment to this. Nobody wins in this. Everybody loses," he said.

"The fans lose. We lost two good hockey players.

"As difficult as it was, this was the right thing to do."

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/CJ_Stevenson


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