Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Rome Hit & Suspension

NHL fan-friends, make me understand the Rome suspension.

How is the Rome hit:


different from say, this classic hit by Scott Stevens that was largely hailed as one of the great plays of that series:


Okay the NHL is different now. New rules have been put in place (this season) to try and curtail concussions. But this means that in only 8 years a play that would've been the highlight of the night, and put you into the hall of fame, is now something that will get you kicked out of the NHL finals, and vilified as being one of the dirtiest players to hit the ice.

I agree, Rome's hit was late. According to the NHL rulebook, interference is called when a player is: "Moving laterally and without establishing body position, then making contact with the non-puck carrier is not permitted and will be penalized as interference". Okay, I buy that. Rome did move laterally into Horton, he didn't have established body position. Having said that however, watch the Rome replay, he's actually moving in for the hit as Horton is making the pass, it just took that extra second for the contact to be made.

But, why a match penalty?

Again, according to the rulebook "A match penalty shall be imposed on any player who deliberately attempts to injure or who deliberately injures an opponent in any manner." So presumably the reasoning is that Rome *intended to injure* Horton. I don't buy this. Rome's hit was late, but he didn't raise his elbow. His feet left the ice, but only after the hit (he didn't "jump into" Horton). I guess the referees saw it differently.

So then, why the suspension?

Historically the NHL has had one of the worst reputations for being completely inconsistent with suspensions. Sometimes players will get no suspension, others will get several games for similar plays. Some of the common variables that reportedly are involved include whether or not there was intent to injure, whether the infraction was premeditated, and the big one -- whether or not the player is a repeat offender. Going down the list, I already commented that it did not seem to be an intent to injure. Given the play transpired in the span of a couple seconds it's difficult to see how this could have been premeditated. And finally, Rome has never been suspended in his NHL career.

But apparently the play was "dirty" enough to warrant being suspended for the duration of the Stanley Cup finals. I'm hard pressed to think of any instance of this happening in the entire history of the NHL. The last time a player was suspended in the finals was when Pronger clotheslined Dean McAmmond. This was a play where there was clear intent to injure, and Pronger was most definitely a repeat offender. His suspension? 1 game. So extrapolating: a split second play with no premeditation, by a player who's never been suspended before was 4 times as bad as a clear hit to the head by a player who's been suspended and had run-ins with NHL disciplinarians throughout his career. Huh?

Please, make me understand.

Edit: Some interesting links

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