The Bruins announced late this afternoon that Nathan Horton has been released from Massachusetts General Hospital and is at home resting.
Horton spent the night in the hospital after a viscous late hit from Canucks defensemen Aaron Rome during the first period of Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
Shortly after announcing the suspension, NHL Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations Mike Murphy held a press conference to discuss the matter.
“I probably viewed it like most of you did. I thought it was a late hit. I thought that the body was contacted. But I also thought that the head was hit” said Murphy. “It caused a serious injury to Nathan Horton. So the key components are: the late hit, which I had it close to a second late. We have our own formula at NHL Hockey Operations for determining late hits, and it was late. We saw the seriousness of the injury with Nathan on the ice last night. That’s basically what we deliberated on. 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.”
Rome becomes only the fourth ever player to be suspended during the Stanley Cup Finals.
Jiri Fischer, (Detroit 2002) Ville Nieminen, (Calgary 2004) and Chris Pronger (Anaheim 2007) are the others, all three were handed one-game-suspensions for their infractions.
Although Rome was not available to the media, the Canucks blue-liner issued a statement
“I want to express my concern for Nathan’s well-being and wish him a quick and full recovery. 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. I will not take away my teammates’ focus on the task at hand and intend to speak at an appropriate time in future.”
Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault disagrees with the NHL’s ruling
“Well, in my opinion, it’s not the right call. We’ve had instances just in the San Jose series, and Aaron was the player, where he’s facing the board and he gets hit, there’s no suspension there. Eager’s hit on Danny in my mind, where again he’s facing the board, doesn’t get hurt, could have serious consequences. In my opinion, those were two suspendable offenses that weren’t” added Vigneault. “But it was a north/south play. It was a little bit late. But anybody that’s played this game knows that you have to make a decision in a fraction of a second. He’s engaged in the hit. I don’t know how the league could come up with that decision really.”
Bruins head coach Claude Julien knows how difficult of a decision the NHL had to make.
“Well, that’s the way the game has gone now. They’ve kind of taken that policing out of the game for reasons that they feel is right. They’ve taken control of that. I think it’s important that they stay with it. Again, these are tough decisions to make, especially in the Stanley Cup Final. You’re suspending a guy for the rest of the series, so it’s not an easy decision to make. There’s no doubt, again, being on the other side, I’m not going to say it’s not an easy thing to swallow for a team to have their player lost for the rest of the Final. At the end of the day I’m repeating what I said here. We need to clean up this game from those kinds of hits. You got to remember in the days where players were policing themselves, I’m not sure the players were as strong, as big and quick as they are today. The game has changed a lot in regards to that. So somehow we got to, I guess, make some changes to the rules, adapt to what it has become, and understand that the hits today are a lot harder than they were 30, 40 years ago. I’m one of those guys, again, I’m repeating myself, but I’m supporting the League, knowing they’re trying to do the best they can. There’s no easy decision. This is a contact sport. You can’t take the contact out of the game. Just got to try to take those situations where it becomes extremely dangerous out of the game.”
It’s no secret that hits to the head, and blind-side hits are the biggest issue facing the NHL today. Over the past several years the NHL has been extremely inconsistent on what is a suspendable offense and what is not, but at the end of the day its nearly impossible to make everyone happy.