Rinkside chatter

NHL deserves assist on hit

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By Kevin Paul Dupont
Globe Staff / June 7, 2011

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Vancouver defenseman Aaron Rome delivered a heinous seek-and-destroy check to Nathan Horton’s head in the first period last night, sending the Bruins’ power forward to Mass. General Hospital in an ambulance and once more leaving the NHL with a black eye.

Before the period ended, the Bruins announced that Horton, playing in the first postseason of his career, was conscious and able to move his four limbs. The relief in the sellout crowd was palpable given that Horton, his feet taped together as a precautionary move, left the ice on spine-stabilizing board. The hit brought Horton tumbling to the ice, on his back, with his right arm nearly fully extended and frozen while pointing toward the Garden ceiling.

The 6-foot-1-inch, 220-pound Rome pounded him to the ice, running at Horton from the blind side and flattening the right winger a couple of seconds after Horton dished the puck left to linemate Milan Lucic. It appeared that Horton, ready to crack the blue line while looking to his left, antcipated receiving a return relay from the hard-charging Lucic.

Rome, after being initially directed to the penalty box, soon was ordered to leave the game, tossed out on a five-minute interference major and a game misconduct.

According to a league spokesperson, Rome’s hit is now under review by the league’s disciplinary department. It is highly likely he will be suspended for at least the remainder of the Stanley Cup Final.

During a scrum in Game 1, Vancouver forward Alex Burrows clearly bit down on Patrice Bergeron’s right index finger, the chomp obvious on video replay. After reviewing the tape, the league’s disciplinary department — the same office that did nothing for months upon months about targeted hits to the head — ruled there was no conclusive evidence that Burrows bit Bergeron. These are the people who govern and protect the integrity of the game. Don’t they have HDTV?

The decision not to suspend Burrows for biting clearly ratcheted up the Canucks’ cockiness, leaving forward Maxim Lapierre to get in Bergeron’s face at one point in Game 2 and taunt him with a wagging finger.

Given the degree of the jarring hit on Horton, and the hollow look in his eyes as he stared toward the ceiling while flat on his back, it will be surprising if he can make it back for the remainder of the Cup Final. Game 7 of the series, if it gets that far, is slated for June 15.

According to a report by the Associated Press, Boston coach Claude Julien after the first period said there was no further update on Horton beyond the initial word from Mass. General Hospital that the injured winger was able to move all his limbs.

“It’s a tough thing to swallow right now,’’ Julien told Versus, the game’s TV carrier in the US last night. “Our spirits are OK. I heard guys saying, ‘Let’s do it for Horty.’ So we’re good to go.’’

Good enough to strike for four unanswered goals in the second period, starting with an Andrew Ference strike only 11 ticks in. Some symmetry there, considering Burrows knocked home the OT winner in Game 2 only 11 seconds into the extra session.

All in all, irresponsible leadership by the league proved to be the steppingstone to the violent, intent-to-injure hit on Horton.

The league desperately needs to act swiftly now and send Rome out of the playoffs. That, of course, does not settle the debt, considering that Rome is spare part in the Canucks’ scheme of things and Horton is the right wing on Boston’s top line. But justice has to begin somewhere.

Only in Canada . . . barely The US Custom’s agent at the Toronto airport late Sunday afternoon never looked up from his station as he exchanged greetings and routine passport business with the Boston journalist who was about to fly back to the Hub after spending the previous five days in Vancouver.

Agent: “What were you doing in Vancouver?’’

Journalist: “Covering the game for a Boston newspaper.’’

Agent: “Zat right?’’

Journalsit: “Yessir.’’

Agent: “Well, tell that Chara to get his head out his [butt]!

Journalist: “Chara?’’

Agent: “Can’t let that guy [Burrows] make that play behind the net. No way. He’s got to hook him, hold him . . . something . . . can’t let him make that play.’’

Journalist: “Duly noted.’’

Agent: “Good flight home.’’

Banner night for Cam Prince of passion Cam Neely, who doubles as the Bruins president, got the night off to a raucous start as the official Banner Captain.

For those unfamiliar with that bit of royalty, it meant No. 8 was positioned in the stands, adjacent to the Zamboni entrance, where he helped fans send the humongous Bruins flag crawling wave-like through the stands just prior to the opening faceoff.

Neely, wearing his familiar No. 8 sweater for his debut as Captain Bannah, lifted both arms, imploring the crowd to pump up the volume, flashing the moves of a BSO maestro.

Only 5:07 into the first, with the mangled Horton sprawled out on the ice, one was left to wonder how Neely would have used those hands on Rome if the journeyman defenseman had croaked one his Black-and-Gold linemates. Captain Bannah assuredly would have gone bananas.

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