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Question: Would Horton still be playing if the NHL handled things earlier in the Cup Final?

Jun 8, 2011, 9:00 AM EST

Vancouver Canucks v Boston Bruins - Game Three Getty Images

There have been two prevailing philosophies in the wake of Aaron Rome’s ill-fated hit on Nathan Horton. On one side of the fence, there are those who think the incident could have been avoided if the NHL took action at the beginning of the series to make sure things didn’t get out of hand. Since the hit was not properly dealt with by the league, the situation escalated and peaked with the charged atmosphere of Game 3.

For the opposing viewpoint, there are those who think the Burrows incident may have been shameful, but it had nothing to do with the disastrous hit that led Horton to Massachusetts General Hospital. Alex Burrows antics may have led to misbehavior in Game 2 and 3, but had nothing to do with the merciless hit delivered by Aaron Rome.

Hall of Fame columnist Helene Elliott of the LA Times thinks Rome’s hit in Game 3 could have been avoided had the league executed some discipline earlier in the series:

“(Rome’s hit) might have been avoided had Murphy established control by suspending Vancouver’s Alex Burrows for biting the fingers of Boston’s Patrice Bergeron in Game 1 or punished Vancouver’s Maxim Lapierre for putting his fingers near Bergeron’s mouth in a taunting fashion in Game 2. When Game 3 disintegrated, Bruins forwards Mark Recchi and Milan Lucic joined the juvenile pranks, taunting and wagging fingers at the Canucks.

“I will be speaking with both general managers and coaches before the day’s over about what we are seeing, the garbage that is going on, some of the issues,” Murphy said Tuesday during a news conference.

Just like Rome’s hit, Murphy’s lecture came a little too late.”

Not everyone shares Elliott’s opinion. Neither Comcast New England’s Joe Haggerty, nor Bruins’ head coach Claude Julien think the events are related.

“There is no correlation between the post-whistle shenanigans practiced by the Bruins and Canucks in the first three games of the series, and the predatory, reckless hit by Rome that’s ended Horton’s season. That was a piece of hockey violence born from two teams fighting for the same Stanley Cup.

It’s a major leap to say the Horton hit was caused by anything else other than a random act of violence in the playoffs that has left another B’s player dazed, confused and unsure of where he is. Julien won’t take that leap. He’s watched years and years of playoff hockey where borderline hits, broken bones and even biting all have their place within the game.

“I don’t think one links to the other,” said Julien. “What you see with the extra pushes and shoves after whistles are things you see in the playoff finals with the intensity. The referees have done a pretty good job of controlling that. I don’t see an issue there. The physicality of the game has to stay there.”

While it’s understandable to see where Elliott is coming from, Aaron Rome would still have made the same play whether Alex Burrows was suspended or not after Game 1. One play has nothing to do with the other. As Haggerty states, it was “born from two teams fighting for the Stanley Cup.” Rome made an open-ice hit—albeit extremely late. Regardless, it’s a split-second decision that is made in a fast-paced game. He didn’t have time to sit back and contemplate whether he’d receive less punishment because the standard had already been set so low. As much as fans (and I) have come to hate the term, he was trying to make “a hockey play.” Obviously, he failed and that’s why he’ll miss the rest of the series.

Even though the lack of response from the league office had nothing to do with the Rome hit, it has certainly adversely affected the rest of the series. If Murphy and Co. took care of business after the first game, all of the embarrassing finger waging by both teams could have been avoided. Chances are Maxim Lapierre doesn’t taunt Patrice Bergeron in the same manner; likewise, Milan Lucic and Mark Recchi aren’t caught doing the exact same thing in Game 3.

But it still had nothing to do with Aaron Rome’s hit on Nathan Horton.

What do you think? Do you think the league contributed to a toxic atmosphere in Game 3 where Aaron Rome lost control? Was Rome’s hit completely unrelated to the rest of the series? What say you?

  1. govtminion - Jun 8, 2011 at 9:08 AM

    Aaron Rome would still have thrown that hit, whether the league decided to suspend Burrows, fine him, execute him, whatever. I don’t think the previous incident had anything to do with it other than to set the angry tone this series is likely to be remembered for. Rome was a seperate incident, nothing more.

    • hystoracle - Jun 8, 2011 at 1:57 PM

      Agree. The crap after the whistle is an off shoot of the Burrows play. They are acting like 3 year olds after the play with all the sticking fingers in people’s mouth crap.

      Can we man up and go back to playing hockey? Say what you will about the Rome hit. It was at least a hockey play. Horton didn’t dive and Rome wasn’t out to deliver a malicious hit. It was a bang-bang play that resulted in a guy getting injured. Stop the Diving (by both team’s – and yes Boston fan your team dives with the best of them. They are just better at it than Vancouver.), stop the fingers in the face, and the stupid gestures. Man up check during the run of play, give a proverbial playoff facewash, then go back to the bench and get ready to do it again on the next shift.

      Whether Rome’s suspension is deserved or not, too long or too short, is just fodder for inane debate. At the end of the day, he is still suspended and Horton is still out. If the league is serious about getting rid of head shots and dangerous plays they need to apply the same ruling REGARDLESS of injury. According to Murphy’s own ruling you can infer that if Horton had’t gotten injured there wouldn’t have been a suspension. That is why these hits keep happening. With that logic, they wouldn’t call boarding unless someone breaks their neck.

  2. canuckdude82 - Jun 8, 2011 at 9:28 AM

    If the league had been suspending people for hits like this consistently before then there is a chance it wouldn’t have happened.

    • sknut - Jun 8, 2011 at 10:43 AM

      I couldn’t agree more, the league has been too vague and unwilling to go the extra step to ensure hits like this aren’t tolerated. Its a shame too because these finals have been good (save for the blowout in game 3) and non-hockey fans only see the dirtier side of things, which the league needs to address.

    • missthemexpos - Jun 8, 2011 at 12:31 PM

      I am of the opinion that a few players will have to be left paralyzed or worse from these vicious, illegal, cheap shots that we see all too often, before the league really cracks down. With the equipment (body armor) players wear these days, there are some players willing to go head hunting knowing the resulting possible suspension will be pale in comparison to the damage inflicted.

  3. noisetheorem - Jun 8, 2011 at 9:51 AM

    I think they were too soft on Burrows, and that the childish taunting is a direct result of that. As to the hit on Horton, that is not related. The injury is very unfortunate, and I think Rome got what he deserved (maybe a little more, because the NHL wants to make an example of him) but it had nothing to do with the taunting. I think it has more to do with the culture of the Canucks team, who always seems to be seeing how far they can go with a hit before they get punished.

  4. abrienza428 - Jun 8, 2011 at 10:07 AM

    Of course it MIGHT have not happened if Burrows got suspended, but it’s nonsense to think about it in that regard.
    In any situation in life, it’s a slippery slope to think about how things could have turned out differently.
    To put it in perspective, this exact incident PROBABLY wouldn’t have happened if Julien started a different line to begin the game.
    It PROBABLY wouldn’t have happened if Tim Thomas or Roberto Luongo let in a goal early in the game.
    There are millions of miniscule details that would have led to a different outcome at that exact moment in time. It’s pointless to ponder this issue seriously.

  5. demons87 - Jun 8, 2011 at 11:35 AM

    I think it indirectly does. While he probably wasn’t thinking about the bite, the lack of discipline allowed the games to get chippier and chippier as they went along and he got caught up in the heightened state of play. However, I think the taunt by Lapierre not getting punished was probably more responsible for the extra chippiness. If they had a called a two minute unsportsmanlike penalty, that might have sent a message to cool it. Besides, it’s not like Boston would have scored on the powerplay anyway. You get away with it as long as you can, until it has a chance to hurt the team.

  6. nhlbruins90 - Jun 8, 2011 at 12:19 PM

    The biting incident and the hit are two different things. The former may have led to a sense of ‘anything goes’ in this series, but the latter was a hockey play that went wrong. Very wrong.

    These are professional players, and they’re going to have to learn where the new lines are. The NHL obviously has to speak a little more clearly to some players. Rome was foolish to be that aggressive on Horton, particularly on hockey’s biggest stage. Four games might not do the trick. Ten for openers might get their attention.

    That concussion was very severe. The NHL might have dodged a bullet here. The storyline of this Stanley Cup playoff final may have been very different, and much darker but for the grace of God. While I LOVE the physical part of this sport, those hits have to go. Yes, it may be unavoidable now and then, but we’re seeing way too much of it. It’s best to get a grip on this once and for all.

  7. mikeinindy - Jun 8, 2011 at 1:25 PM

    I think that overall, the lack of punishment has caught up with them. Up until now, pretty much anything has gone. Look at the sucker punches in earlier rounds. It all led up to the NHL and refs TOTALLY LOSING CONTROL of the series.

  8. azturboman15 - Jun 8, 2011 at 6:36 PM

    As much as the players and coaches like to say that you leave the last game behind you and focus on the next game, this is a series, the same two teams playing each other every other night (sort of), and things like the classless bite from Burrows carry over. Then the gutless LaPierre taunting of Bergeron in the next game, carried the bite, and the taunt, into game three. Everyone in TD Garden knew that it was going to be a battle in game 3. The Bruins were pissed off, the Canucks were cocky and swaggering, and something had to give.
    Without Rome’s hit on Horton, something else was going to happen at some point in the game. While the two (or three) incidents might be separate, there is definitely a certain amount of animosity that built up, and it spilled over on both benches in game three. The resulting actions were a disgrace to the NHL and hockey in general.
    Murphy should have slammed Burrows, period. His antics were nothing short of ignorant and have no place in any sport. Now hockey is forever linked to Mike Tyson of all people. I know there have been biting incidents in the past, but on hockey’s biggest stage, Murph needed to stand up and scream, “Not on my watch!”. LaPierre doesn’t wag his fingers in game two, and the animosity isn’t at a fever pitch in game three, and we could have avoided the embarassment of all of the other antics, and maybe even the ugly hit by Aaron Rome.

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