It’s safe to say that the Boston Bruins had a bitter-sweet game 3 against the Vancouver Caunucks. Yes, after all the adversity of the first two games, the Bruin’s had not only won a game, but dominated. That’s the sweet part. The bitter part would be the hit that Canuck’s defenceman Aaron Rome put on to Bruin’s forward Nathan Horton. Did I think the hit was dirty? Absolutely. Do I agree with the four-game suspension Aaron Rome got? Sort of.
At this stage, I doubt I’d shock anyone in saying that the NHL’s disciplinary system has been flawed and inconsistent at best, but this one was strange for me for a number of reasons. It shouldn’t have taken me by surpise because, well, since the league hadn’t really cracked down on these types of hits during the regular season, it makes perfect sense for them to do it during the Stanley Cup Finals, right? I mean it’d rude not to. You’ll have to excuse the sardonic elements of this post.
Obviously, Brendan Shanahan is taking over the disciplinary role starting next season, so this type of suspension is one that I not only hope to see next season, but also one I expect to see next season. This hit is no worse than some of the hits that previously went unsuspended, or hits that got one or two games during the regular season, so why come down this hard now? I’m not sure that the NHL’s discipline team are thinking on this one, if I’m honest. If I saw suspensions like this consistently throughout the season, not only would I not have any issue with this suspension, but I’d, and wait for it, almost have been ok with Colin Campbell in his previous role.
Unfortunately for Nathan Horton his season is over. It’s a real shame for him as he’s a player that has been great to watch this season. Watching Nathan Horton come from Florida to Boston and be a difference-maker has been great to see, and it’s a tough end to an otherwise great season for him. I personally find it very hard to dislike Nathan Horton and think that it’s a big loss for Boston. Nobody wants to see players stretchered off the ice. At least I hope not.
Changing the suspension precedent in the middle of the Stanley Cup Finals is one thing, but I am still amazed that Burrow’s bite went without suspension. Those amongst us that wear tinfoil hats will now be wondering if this over-harsh, but justified suspension was to, in some way, make up for the lack of a biting suspension. One conspiracy that I will be quick to dismiss now is the whole ‘The NHL Loves Boston’ conspiracy.
Think about it logically in this instance. Nathan Horton (surely a candidate for MVP?) gets his season ended by a dirty hit. Did some Boston-loving boffin in the NHL office say, “Hey, since we love Boston, I’ve got an Idea. Let’s suspend Aaron Rome, a slightly-above-average AHL-level talent, for four games. That’s bound to give Boston the edge.” I think not.
To be fair to those who do believe in the ‘Boston Conspiracy’, you did have something for the case file. Milan Lucic delievered a punch to the back of the head of Canucks’ forward Alex Burrows. Some people are laughing it off saying, “He got a slap in the head, he deserves it.” etc. Whilst he may well deserve it, that was not a slap, or a tap, or a little whack. That was a punch to the back of the head, of a player who was down on one knee, presumably proposing to the girl in the front row. Eclipsed by the hit on Horton? Definitely, but still, in my eyes, worthy of some kind of discipline.
There is no doubt about it. Nathan Horton is a bigger loss for Boston than Aaron Rome is for Vancouver. That said, I am glad, albeit slightly confused, at the timing of this suspension. I for one hope to see players get these kinds of suspensions regularly for hits like this next season. It’s good to see that Nathan Horton’s injury did not go unnoticed by the NHL’s head boffins. I don’t believe that plays should be punished based on injury, but the NHL has already acknowledged that ‘extent of injury’ is part of the formula they use. Again, I question why now and not earlier in the season. I myself am undecided whether better late than never could have waited another few months.
If one thing has been made clear by this incident, it’s that the NHL will still tolerate punching to the back of the head and biting. My advice to Boston? Bite every player that puts their digits anywhere near your face, and for the players that are smart enough to keep their fingers away, give them a swift dig in the back of the head. Hey, the NHL can’t suspend you for that, right?