By Joe Haggerty
BOSTON Vancouver defenseman Aaron Rome sent the Bruins' Nathan Horton to the hospital with a hit to the head in the first period of Game 3, once again opening up the NHLs version of a Pandoras Box.
Bostons smiling right winger had just completed a pass while coming through the neutral zone whenRome stepped into him and hit him high with his shoulder. Horton snapped back and fell, banging his head hard against the ice.
Horton was motionless for several minutes, appearing to be dazed as he lie in a strangely still position. He was strapped to a board, taken off the ice on a stretcher, and transported to Massachusetts General Hopsital. The only medical update offered by the Bruins was that he was "alert and responsive" and "moving all his extremities," but one of the medical people working on Horton later told CSNNE's Mike Giardi that Horton thought he was still in Vancouver."
There was clearly an agreement that the hit on Horton a lateral blow to the head was tardy by virtually anyones interpretation of the events. Horton had already released a pass from his stick in the neutral zone and had taken several strides before Rome lowered the boom on him.
Opinions differ as to whether it was a blindside hit. Many feel it was; for the most part, the Canucks feel it was simply a late hit. Some NHL observers say the fact that Horton didn't see Rome before the blow doesn't, in and of itself, make it a blindside hit.
In any case, Rome was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct, and CSNNE.com confirmed through a league source that he has a meeting scheduled with NHL Vice President of Hockey Operations Mike Murphy for Tuesday morning. He is likely looking at a one- to two-game suspension.
The Bruins' Shawn Thornton was teammates with Rome in Anaheim in the NHL and Portland in the AHL, and said he knows him to be an "honest player". But the personal connection didnt stop the Bs enforcer from saying that type of hit is exactly what the NHL is trying to stamp out of the game before more players careers end prematurely due to frightful cases of brain damage and post-concussion syndrome.
I think thats the stuff were trying to get out of the game and get rid of, said Thornton. I hope Horton's okay. Im sure well get some more news. As players, and with the culture of the game, thats the kind of stuff that we need to get out of the game with the head shots. Its in the leagues hands now and Im sure theyll do the right thing.
Hortons one of the best guys Ive ever played with. Hes always happy and hes always in a good mood, and he always has a smile on his face. Hes so positive. To see anybody go down you really want to rally around them, but especially for him because hes been such a positive influence on this squad all year.
An agitated Thornton was staring at the Vancouver bench as Horton was getting wheeled off the ice on the stretcher right before both benches tapped their sticks against the boards.
I played with Rome and from what I know of him he is an honest player," said Thornton. "But that doesnt take from the fact that it was a lateral hit to the head. Thats what the rule was set into place for, as far as Im concerned.
"But Aaron Rome is a good person. Im not saying hes a bad person, but thats something that we as players have to get out of the game."
Early Tuesday morning, Rome's agent, Jarrett Bousquet, told TSN's Bob McKenzie: "Aaron told me he was sad to see Horton lying on the ice because Rome's been hit in the head twice within the year and would never intend to injure another player. He hopes Horton is okay and is sorry."
In the Canucks' dressing room, the Sedin twins both said it was a late hit. But Manny Malhotra said he "thought it a very clean hit. The timing was maybe a fraction off, but all in all you see those hits on daily basis."
The Bruins -- and especially Thornton -- disagree.
"I wasnt happy with the hit," Thornton said. "My next emotion was worry to know Nathan was okay. It was good to see him moving on the big screen as they took him off. You could tell by my facial expression if the camera was on me that I wasnt very happy with it. You never want to see a teammate in that situation.