Significant Injury?

Nathan Horton lies on the ice following a late hit by Aaron Rome

Humans are social beings and as social beings our lives are overrun by emotions. Emotions cloud our judgement. Emotions change our perception of what we see and how we react to events.

Naturally, when a person is lying on the ice seemingly unconscious and having to be carted off our emotions get the best of us. No self-respecting person wants to see a person badly hurt no matter the circumstances.

Seeing Nathan Horton immobile for a good ten minutes following a devastating hit by Aaron Rome is a scary sight. As humans, we want revenge on the guy that did it. The Boston Bruins fans showed their displeasure by booing for a considerable length after watching the replay. Luckily, Nathan Horton was reported to have had movement in all his extremities while at Massachusetts General Hospital.

The sight of a motionless Nathan Horton led to a 5 minute penalty for Aaron Rome and a game misconduct. That wasn’t the end of it though. Today, Aaron Rome was suspended a whopping 4 games for his hit on Nathan Horton. The reason given by NHL Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations Mike Murphy was that “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.”

Significant injury?

This is yet another critical error in their method of determining suspensions. As humans, we feel that the length of a suspension should be correlated to how hurt the victim is.

Our emotions get the best of us. The sight of a severely injured player brings out the emotions that we don’t want to feel like fear, anger and horror. The emotion of a seeing fellow human being in distress can bring out the worst in us. Despite the many angles that advancement of technology allows us, the replay of a hit is suddenly far worse in our eyes when we know that the player has been brutally injured.

If you subtract the Horton injury from this equation and look at the hit from an objective standpoint it really isn’t all that bad. The hit is obviously late and is deemed late based on the timing criteria utilized by the NHL. The hit was 28 digital frames (whatever that means) from release of the pass and the NHL standard for a late hit is longer than 15 frames which equals 0.5 seconds. Rome’s hit does not qualify as a blind side, even though Horton is not looking, because Horton is moving in the direction of Rome and Rome simply steps up on him. Most importantly, there is no intent to injure. The elbow in no way flies out and Rome’s shoulder makes contact with Horton’s head because Horton is admiring his pass while smack dab in the middle of the ice.

The hit isn’t pretty but it is nowhere near some of the worst hits we have seen recently in the NHL. Intent to injure with a hit to the head has been a major issue in the NHL, with a terrible amount of inconsistency regarding the handing out of suspensions.

Aaron Rome isn’t one to dish out dirty hits and this wasn’t intended to be one. Rome has been on the receiving end of a couple of big hits in recent memory and has suffered a concussion because of it. Rome’s agent said yesterday that “Aaron told me he was sad to see Horton lying on the ice because he’s been that guy twice within the year and would never intend to injure another player. He hopes Horton is OK and is sorry.” Rome also texted Horton today telling him that it was never his intention to hurt him.

Aaron Rome on contact with Nathan Horton

Now the fact that Rome apologized shouldn’t be a factor in the decision-making process either but it’s a gesture that most likely shows there wasn’t any malicious intent. The replay of the hit shows that too.

There have been too many instances over the past couple of years where players have been on the receiving end of very dirty hits but were not injured. The players who dished out the dirty hits have constantly avoided a suspension of considerable length in large part because their victim was not injured.

It doesn’t make any sense. It doesn’t make any sense that the statement given by Mike Murphy (who has taken over for Colin Campbell temporarily) includes the reasoning that the length of the suspension was determined because it caused significant injury.

The action should define the suspension not the result.

You can “dig” through the archives from a month ago and remember Raffi Torres’ filthy hit on Brent Seabrook. Torres got 2 minutes for interference and avoided suspension. That hit was from the blind side, he was gunning for his head but Seabrook got up and continued to play.

Related: Throw the Book at Torres

The issue here is that if Seabrook had lain motionless in a similar fashion to Nathan Horton than we no doubt would have seen a suspension given to Raffi Torres. It is completely illogical that the same action can result in a different penalty based on the injury of the victim.

The NHL isn’t alone in their ill-fated logic but I guess this is all a part of their endless display of contradictory messages. Contradictory message #243 — Hit but don’t hurt.

There are at least a dozen hits that immediately come to mind that are much worse than the hit by Aaron Rome. Steckel on Crosby, Kunitz on Gagne, Downie on Lovejoy, Downie on McAmmond, Cooke on Savard, Cooke on Mcdonagh, Cooke on Tyutin and well Cooke on pretty much everyone. Listing everyone is pointless because there are just so many but you get the idea.

The city of Montreal wanted blood for all the wrong reasons when Zdeno Chara accidentally nailed Max Paciroetty into the stanchion. Boston fans want blood for what Aaron Rome did. They want blood for the wrong reason.

Aaron Rome is now out for the rest of the Stanley Cup Final and all because his hit caused “significant injury.”

Related: NHL Head Shots

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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28 Responses to Significant Injury?

  1. bheise says:

    Really good take and I agree that the result of the play shouldn’t determine the penalty. It should be all about intent. You can tell easily in todays replay age when I guy is oit for blood or not. I don’t think that was the case here. I think both are at fault. Rome didn’t need to hit Horton on that situation, but horton also needs to pay attention and not gaze lovingly at his passes when he’s skating over the middle. Both need to be smarter. So does the nhl when its policing this stuff and so does the nfl and sometimes the nba. It should be whether or not there was intent to injure, not the injury itself.

  2. Mark says:

    Chris. A well-written piece. Thanks for your comments on my blog, Mark Unleashed. (http://markunleashed.wordpress.com). The only comment I have a disagreement with your characterization of the Chara hit on Pacioretty as “accidental”. As a referee with 18 years experience, I have seen many hits and even more “hockey plays”. You learn to tell a player’s “hockey intention” by whether or not their actions are typical hockey moves. Any time a hockey player extends both arms out in front of them, they are either cross checking or shoving as this is not a “hockey move.” In Chara’s case, his experience leaves me to believe he knew full well where he was on the ice, and the timing of the extension of his arms (they were “engaged” for a few seconds prior) leaves me convinced that he was trying to send a message to his bitter division rivals and likely first round opponent. I don’t believe he intended to take Pacioretty’s head off or, worse, kill him, but one must be responsible for their actions. He was not held accountable. That was wrong. Mike Murphy’s explanation today is the most inconsistent, unprofessional, pathetic contradiction in terms and has no place in professional sports, or professional anything, for that matter.

  3. Mark says:

    Wow, Mayor. You’re all class. Not one rational point in there. Anyone who “loves hockey for its frontier justice” obviously has no idea what hockey is supposed to be. You want frontier justice, watch Gunsmoke. Hockey is for those who understand the beauty of the game; the talent, the passing, the scoring, the strategy. All you have are “Sedin sisters” comments. Way to raise the bar.

  4. Dustin Fink says:

    Chris,
    Love your post! As I stated I can agree with some of your points but the simple fact is that this hit was a blind side hit, Rule 48. I agree we shouldn’t over react to the sight of a player being hurt, but we can remove a lot of these instances of the rules are followed and players respect one another on the ice/field. Emotions should be left at the door when making decisions like these, but I am all for any contact to the head or illegal contact bringing head injury should be punished with parallel time out to the injured. For example if you cross check a player that is penalized and that player is out for 10 days due to a concussion or head injury then they serve 10 days.

    I am not for taking contact out of the game, there were plenty of open ice hits last night that did not result in penalty or injury that brought the crowd to their feet. The game will stay exciting…

    • Mark says:

      Sorry Dustin, this was not a Rule 48 hit. It was a north-south hit and, as Chris rightly said, Horton got hit because he was too busy admiring his pass. The hit was late and high, but not covered by Rule 48.

      • Dustin Fink says:

        Disagree the hit was initiated from behind, the rule states “from the blind side”. So what if he was admiring the pass, the hit came from behind and to his right, this was not a straight N-S hit. Look at the photo Rome’s left knee is behind Horton’s right knee. Add to that a N-S hit would indicate that the skates/hips/shoulders would be in opposing directions, not perpendicular, look at photo and video again. Take the hockey blinders off for a second and look at it from the law of physics. It is impossible to be a true N-S hit if you look at this way…

    • Mark says:

      No reply button to your most recent post, so I’m replying here.
      If someone has blinders on, it’s you. Anti-Concussion blinders, perhaps?
      Moreover, it’s sad that you would make this personal.
      You can scream Rule 48 as much as you like, but all of the respectable commentators agree – take Bob McKenzie, for instance, who wrote on twitter:

      “In eyes of NHL, Horton not seeing Rome doesn’t make it blindside hit. Horton is advancing, Rome stepped up on him. Foul is interference.”

      Right after he wrote: “Hit was late based on timing criteria NHL uses to determine late hits. I would be surprised if Rule 48 blindside rule is invoked here.”

      Sorry dude.

  5. Corwo says:

    I know,I personally think that he should be able to play still although I feel bad for Nathan Horton.

  6. Dominick says:

    I agree with you, and enjoyed your article. I hooked up through a link you left with Surly, and Scribe.

    The hit was North south, not East West, or even Northwest SouthEast. The head wasn’t targetted, because his feet were planted, and he exploded upward at (“at” being the key word here) the point of contact. The point of impact was more severe because Rome had stopped all retreating motion to stand up at the blue line (exactly where the hit took place) ruling out any headhunting issues any blogger might try to throw in there.

    It’s unfortunate that somebody got hurt, but we’re talking hockey here, not volleyball. The sport will have casualties.

  7. Bobby Scribe says:

    Hey, nice place you have here. A little paint, hang up some pictures, maybe a 60 inch flat screen and I may come to hang out now and then…well, you already know my opinion on this subject. Hockey is akin to life and, in life, the punishment for the crime is often measured by the gravity of injury, not just the subjective intent.

  8. thomas kelley says:

    Your tone betrays a biased, misguided viewpoint. Can I assume you write for a living? Whether you meant to do it or not, you should be bright enough to understand that blaming the victim for inciting the circumstances is an absolute no no, even if that victim is culpable. You wrote: “Rome’s shoulder makes contact with Horton’s head because Horton is admiring his pass while smack dab in the middle of the ice.” Are you the only writer on the face of the Earth who hasn’t had the phrase “detractive insinuation” thrown in his face? Not only did you blame Horton, you suggest that it was the arrogance of his vanity that effectuated the incident & his current circumstance. At most, Horton is responsible for looking beyond the moment & considering his next move, when he should have had his head on a swivel. Now, the thrust of your argument is the penalty of a 4 game suspension! You reason that the consequences resulting from Rome’s hit should be irrelevant to the penalty he draws. It is not fair to assume that this is even possible. Since the beginning of time, man’s understanding of justice has been based on the consequences of one’s actions. You have a few drinks; no problem. You have a few drinks while driving; bit of a problem. You rear end a State trooper’s vehicle while driving; big problem! Kill the prisoner in back of that Trooper’s vehicle; major, life altering problem! You want the NHL to reverse an original underlying tenet of civilization because it happens to strike you as “illogical”! What is illogical is that you want human beings to take emotion out the equation.That is an expression men use when complaining about women, not a realistic option in life. The moment this hit was judged illegal, intent & consequence of action dictate the punishment. Anything else can be considered mitigating or aggravating circumstances. Take the emotion out the equation & reevaluate the situation more objectively. If you can do that, you will see things my way, & prove that my opinion has been ill-conceived at the same time.

    • Chris Ross says:

      I don’t think I ever blame Horton for the incident. I think it’s more that he wasn’t as aware as he should have been. He wasn’t the one who caused it but he sure could have prevented it. Anyways, when it comes to you saying since the beginning of time civilzation has been this way doesn’t make it right. That is completely illogical in itself. Saying something is right just because it’s the way it’s always been done and it’s how society is run seems pretty naive to me.

      • thomas kelley says:

        I don’t know Chris, sounds like you are cleverly parsing your words! You said he was admiring his pass; that is not a passive action! You are right about it being naive to think “something is right just because it’s the way it’s always been done and it’s how society is run”. But Chris, I never said anything like that! My argument is that it is perfectly acceptable for the NHL to enforce it’s rules & regulations in correlation with societal norms, & it is unfair for anyone to presume that their reasoning is somehow inappropriate. It is not illogical to suggest the NHL follow conventional standards of thinking. Okay, on to something more important. I want to apologize for my first response. After reading over my comment, It dawned on me that I sounded like a pompous jerk. I thought my tone was smug & condescending. You’re a good writer & you don’t deserve to be talked to like that & that’s not who I am. I am sorry. On the the topic itself, how about we agree to disagree?

  9. Yeah, maybe it wasn’t intentional, but I’m pretty positive it was a suspendable hit. Especially when it happens in a Stanley Cup Finals game. I think that the decision to suspend Rome for 4 games was the right one. Horton did suffer and concussion and will miss the rest of the postseason after all.

  10. pete says:

    Dustin: you need to go here buddy:

    http://espn.go.com/blog/nhl/post/_/id/9048/cup-finals-mike-murphy-on-aaron-rome-hit

    that wasn’t a blindside hit, it was N-S, doesnt matter which way a players body is facing, it was late and interference. i wouldnt listen too much to biased hockey commentators, they know less than my 3 year old niece about hockey!

    if youve been watching the whole play-off series’ we’ve seen way worse this past few weeks, Rome suspended for 4 games after already getting a game misconduct at pretty much the start of the game, probably over-reaction but stiff league rulings had to start somewhere, just a pity it see’s two great players miss a Cup finals run.

    Dustin and thomas kelley: dont know if you guys ever played hockey im assuming you did, ill never forget my coach telling me after getting smoked one year in juniors, “in open ice, always know where youre playing, know where youre passing, where youre going, and where the bodies are going in front of you, and ALWAYS have your head up”, ive also heard it from people who knew better than my coach(former NHL coaches and hockey players at camps). Horton made an awesome heads up play, but not only did he get involved in watching the pass, he wasnt looking in front, he was still looking down, and whilst the hit was late, his body position was terrible. Anyways hope he recovers well, and we still see a great series to the end.

    • Dustin Fink says:

      Thanks man I appreciate it… I may have some blinders on, I am not as attached to the game as puckheads, but I do understand physics… I also understand respect… Regardless of how each of us, and the commentators (agree with the above about them) see the hit, it was unwarranted, no matter the intent. And for clarification Rule 48 does not deal with intent, just where the hit comes from, the blind side. In my viewing of the incident due to Horton’s head being turned this would be his blind side. In pee-wee’s there is a STOP sign on the back of a player, it would be synonymous with a players head turned… Rome could have rubbed Horton out of the play effectively without even bringing him to the ice…

      And head shots can be taken out of the game, it is out of international hockey, and has been for a few years… The Olympic game is very exciting, it may even open up the ice a bit if players are worried about hits that are high?

      And I want to clarify that I don’t have all the answers these are just observations about a great game and a terrible incident.

  11. The Mayor says:

    Game over. Luongo is done. Burrows is done. the sisters are done. Give me the Bruins tonight. http://windycitizensports.wordpress.com/2011/06/08/lock-of-the-century-nhl-stanley-cup-finals-game-4/

  12. stephcrosier says:

    Good Piece.
    I disagree with some of the other comments and about the hit though. The hit was late. He could have easily turned and dodged him or just as easily not thrown his elbow up. I understand that he apologized, and that was big of him, but he made a stupid decision and I think the punishment was legit. Four games looks bad now only because it is the finals. If it were regular season no one would care out four games.

    And…. obviously I don’t care but you should watch where you get your photos from. You need to credit them to someone or you could get a cease and desist letter. Just a heads up cause it’s happened to one of my peers.

  13. Dylan Lysen says:

    I agree that Horton’s injury shouldn’t decide how long the suspension should be, but I’m also all for getting head shots out of the game. I honestly think that they only way to get them out is to ban all hits to the head. Make all players responsible for their actions, make them realize that they can seriously injure someone, and possibly end their career. But, I guess that is a completely different argument, there hasn’t been any consistency in any of the suspensions this season.

    • Dominick says:

      That just adds more rules to the problem. You can’t hope to govern and control head trauma hits, unless you take the hits out of the game, which leads to judgement calls by the refs, which adds more rules to try to isolate the hits, which depends solely on the refs judgement, which is based on perception.

      Physical sports, like fottball, and hockey are unsafe to begin with. No possible way to provide a safe environment when hitting is the chief component.

  14. Hey Chris thanks for your comment on http://uniquelymiscellaneous.wordpress.com/,

    I think the major difference between the Torres hit and the Rome hit is not that Horton was unconscious, I believe it was the lateness. I am a Columbus Blue Jackets fan and I never in my life saw Torres go after someone like he did in the earlier series. I would argue this hit was timed closer to the release of the puck. However, lifting his skates and aiming for the head had the intent to injure someone.

    The “intent to injure” in the Rome hit comes at the lateness and angle of the play. If Rome were to step up for a hit, he shouldn’t of also lifted his skates (he didn’t as much as Torres, but if you look he leaves the ice) and also aim high on the hit. A simple hit across the body could have slowed Horton down from entering the zone, or even a shouldering play. The aim for a hit while a player enters the zone is one to slow the player down, not to leave them down on the ice unconscious. I do believe that because of the lateness, and the intent of knocking the player down late instead of just slowing him down, creates the “intent to injure.”

    I would completely agree, however, with the argument that the NHL is inconsistent with its suspensions. A Torres, Avery or any other repeat offender will get suspended “more heavily” and would most likely have a suspension carry over to the next season. The NFL has a set “repeat offender” punishment, however, the NHL has no set rules in place which creates terrible inconsistencies. Unfortunately, Burrows should have also been suspended for at least 1 game, which potentially would of avoided the scrummy nature of the series that has become more of a joke than a true hockey series.

    Feel free to subscribe to http://uniquelymiscellaneous.wordpress.com/ and I appreciate any comments and responses!

    Aaron

  15. The Mayor says:

    You’re awful quiet over there. dont you want to complain about the ice, the refs, the Bruins, the weather, etc? Fire up the excuse machine Canucks. http://windycitizensports.wordpress.com/2011/06/09/they-are-who-we-thought-they-were-canucks-are-awful/

  16. cupcrazy12 says:

    Rome suspension came from the fact that he touched the head of Horton, elbow out or not, they were going to suspend him for touching the head. The NHL is in severe crack down mode as they have been these past couple months. They do not care it is the Stanley Cup Finals, or possibly the fact he did not even mean to do it. They were going to have to crack the whip eventually.

    Announcers tend to blow things out of proportion in “real-time” when things happen. But I really think the suspension was necessary. You look at the Richards hit on David Booth and that warranted a suspension as well. Also, you can take a look at any Matt Cooke hit and see that the NHL is saying to themselves: “We do not want this to be starting up again.” Players and coaches get pissed with head hits, and I think to just cover their asses and to keep everyone happy, they got rid of Rome for the rest of the series.

    On a side note, I follow hockey pretty religiously, not as much Canadian team because I am in New Jersey and we barely get the Canadian teams, but was Rome even a significant part of the Canucks? I never heard of him before this. Usually when you hear Canucks the Sedins, Kessler, Lapiere, Raymond and Luongo come to mind. But Aaron Rome? I don’t think the Canucks will miss him at all whether he was on the team or not

    If anyone would like you can follow my blog: http://cupcrazy12.wordpress.com/
    I look at the NHL, the NHL playoffs, and the NBA playoffs.

    Good read Chris, nice stuff.

  17. chappy81 says:

    Not a big hockey fan, but that hit sure seems to have turned the Bruins psyche, they actually look like a team right now!

  18. mattjw24 says:

    Good stuff Chris. I wasn’t aware of the 15 frames standard. Very interesting. It kind of takes away from the in-the-moment aspect of just finishing a check.

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