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Rome suspended for four games for late hit

by Shawn P. Roarke
BOSTON -- The Vancouver Canucks will be without Aaron Rome for the rest of the Stanley Cup Final.

The defenseman was suspended for four games for delivering a late hit to Boston Bruins forward Nathan Horton in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final, the National Hockey League announced Tuesday afternoon.

Rome was assessed a five-minute major penalty for interference and game misconduct at 5:07 of the first period. Horton, who was stretchered off the ice after the hit at the Vancouver blue line, suffered a concussion on the hit. Tuesday morning, the Bruins announced that Horton will miss the remainder of the Stanley Cup Final. Horton was released from the hospital Tuesday morning and returned home.

"I thought it was a late hit," NHL Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations Mike Murphy said, addressing the media in Boston. "I thought that the body was contacted. But I also thought that the head was hit. 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 met with Murphy by phone before the decision was rendered. Afterward, Murphy said that Rome was contrite and said it was a hockey play that went bad.

Rome reiterated that message in a statement released by the Canucks on Tuesday afternoon.

"I want to express my concern for Nathan's well-being and wish him a quick and full recovery," Rome said. "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 (the) future."

Later in the afternoon, Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault insisted the League was too harsh in dealing with his player.

"Last night, (it was a) very unfortunate that hit turned bad," Vigneault said after Vancouver's optional practice at Boston University's Walter Brown Arena. "We're real disappointed the player got hurt. 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."

Murphy delivered the Rome suspension because usual disciplinarian Colin Campbell recused himself from any involvement in this series because Campbell's son Gregory is a forward with the Boston Bruins.

Last week, Campbell, senior executive vice president of Hockey Operations, announced his resignation from the role of overseeing discipline, handing the reigns to Brendan Shanahan. That transition of power, however, takes effect after the season.

Rome will miss the remainder of the Stanley Cup Final series. If the Final ends before Game 7, the suspension will carry over to the start of the 2011-12 regular season.

"I think it's important for our whole League to protect our players from those kind of hits," Boston coach Claude Julien said. "Again, I support (the League). Whether you agree or not, you support them. I support them with the (Alex) Burrows decision and I'm supporting them with this one, as well."

Burrows, a Vancouver forward, was not suspended after biting Patrice Bergeron in Game 1. The League ruled in that case that there was not sufficient evidence to prove the bit was intentional.

Rome's ban is just the fourth suspension -- and first multi-game suspension -- in the history of the Stanley Cup Final.

Anaheim's Chris Pronger was the most recent suspension, earning a game for an elbow to the head of Ottawa's Dean McAmmond in the 2007 Final. Calgary's Ville Nieminen was banned for a game in 2004 for a hit from behind on Tampa Bay's Vincent Lecavalier and Detroit's Jiri Fischer earned the first Stanley Cup suspension in 2002, for a cross-check to Carolina's Tommy Westlund.

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