Vancouver Canucks defenseman Aaron Rome has been suspended for four games by the NHL for his blindside hit that sent Boston Bruins forward Nathan Horton to the hospital and shelved him for the rest of the Stanley Cup finals.
The NHL announced the suspension on Tuesday, one day after Rome flattened Horton during the first period of Boston's 8-1 victory in Game 3. Horton had just passed the puck when Rome lowered his shoulder and delivered what the Bruins saw as the kind of hit the NHL has tried to eliminate after several players sustained severe concussions.
"Two factors were considered in reaching this decision," said NHL Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations Mike Murphy in a statement. "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."
The 26-year-old Horton, the right wing on Boston's top line, has a severe concussion and the team says he will not play again in the best-of-seven series.
Horton, the right wing on Boston's top line, apparently was knocked unconscious by the collision, hitting his head on the ice and staying down for several minutes while medical personnel attended to him.
"The league made the decision, it’s a player for a player," said teammate Milan Lucic Tuesday. "You can’t say too much, obviously. Like I said it’s the league’s decision, they have a tough enough job as it is dealing with these kinds of things and it is what it is."
Horton has eight goals and nine assists this postseason for Boston, which trails 2-1 heading into Game 4 on Wednesday night. He's second in the NHL postseason with plus-11 rating, and he already became the first player in NHL history to score a game-winning goal in a Game 7 twice in the same postseason run.
He skates alongside center David Krejci and Lucic on the Bruins' top line. Boston coach Claude Julien hadn't yet decided how to replace Horton after the Bruins' victory Monday night.
Horton has been a hero in the postseason for Boston, which is in the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in 21 years. Horton scored the winning goal in overtime in Game 7 of the first round against Montreal - and again in the Eastern Conference finals, getting the only goal in Boston's 1-0 victory over Tampa Bay late in the third period.
Horton is in his first career postseason after spending his first six seasons with the woeful Florida Panthers. The former No. 3 overall draft pick has 168 goals and 180 assists in 502 games.
Horton was Boston's second-leading goal-scorer this season with 26, finishing fourth on the team with 53 points.
While Horton is a key offensive player for the Bruins, the 27-year-old Rome is a depth defenseman for the Canucks, usually playing in their third pairing. He has one goal and 37 penalty minutes in the postseason.
Vancouver already lost defenseman Dan Hamhuis to an undisclosed injury in Game 1 of the finals, but the Canucks are deep on defense, with veteran Keith Ballard sitting out the first three games as a healthy scratch.
With reporting from The Associated Press and the WBUR Newsroom
This program aired on June 7, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.