Rome hit on Horton renews headshot debate

Vancouver Canucks defenceman Aaron Rome's late hit to the head of Boston Bruins forward Nathan Horton in Game 3 Monday has renewed the debate about blindside hits and headshots.
Bruins forward Nathan Horton (18) is helped by a trainer as teammate David Krecji looks on at TD Garden on Monday night. (Elsa/Getty Images)

An issue that has dogged the NHL for a couple of years is back in the spotlight on hockey's biggest stage.

When Vancouver Canucks defenceman Aaron Rome delivered a late hit to the head of Nathan Horton on Monday night, it didn't just send the Boston Bruins forward to hospital. It also renewed the debate about what kind of bodychecks the league should legislate out of the game.

The varied opinions were on display after the horn sounded on Boston's 8-1 win in Game 3.

"I think what I would call it is it was a blindside hit that we've talked about taking out of the game," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "He made the pass.

"It was late. He came from the blindside. Whether it's through the motion of the hit, it appeared he left his feet a little bit."

Canucks coach Alain Vigneault didn't see it the same way.

"That hit was a head-on hit, player looking at his pass,"Vigneault said. "It was a little bit late.

"I don't think that's the hit that the league is trying to take out of the game. This is a physical game, you have big guys. Fraction of a second to decide what's happening out there."

Rome was suspended for four games by the NHL on Tuesday, ensuring he won't appear again in the series. The last player to receive a ban in the final was Anaheim Ducks defenceman Chris Pronger, who sat out one game for a hit on Ottawa's Dean McAmmond in 2007.

The Bruins said Horton had feeling in all of his extremities when he was admitted to a local hospital.

The team announced on Tuesday that Horton will miss the remainder of the Stanley Cup Final due to a severe concussion.

Head hits have been a talking point around the NHL for a couple years and the league created rule 48 prior to this season to penalize any "lateral or back pressure hit" where the principal point of contact is the head. Some would like to see the definition expanded to include any hit to the head.

Coincidentally, the blue-ribbon panel of four former NHLers that has been tasked with examining the issue is scheduled to talk about potential tweaks to rule 48 at the general managers' meeting on Wednesday. Steve Yzerman, Rob Blake, Brendan Shanahan and Joe Nieuwendyk sat down together last week in Vancouver to prepare themselves for that presentation.

In the aftermath of seeing Horton wheeled off the ice on a stretcher, a number of NHL players used their Twitter accounts to wish him well and offer an opinion on the hit.

St. Louis Blues forward David Perron, who missed considerable time this season with a concussion suffered in a blindside hit from San Jose's Joe Thornton, thought it was a dirty play.

"Just saw the Horton/Rome hit, you can't tell me Rome couldn't stop his momentum before hit … No point in finishing hit cause no puck around," wrote Perron.

Added Pittsburgh Penguins forward Mike Rupp: "Just saw the hit on Horton. Pray that he's ok! Nasty scene on the ice."