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NHL suspends Aaron Rome 4 games for Nathan Horton hit

Sportsnet's Dan Murphy broke the news that the NHL has suspended Aaron Rome(notes) four games for his late hit on Nathan Horton(notes) in Game 3 Monday night. The ban will continue on into next season should the series end before Game 7.

Horton was stretchered off the TD Garden ice and spent the night at Massachusetts General Hospital before being released Tuesday morning.

From the NHL:

Vancouver Canucks defenseman Aaron Rome has been suspended for four games for delivering a late hit to Boston Bruins forward Nathan Horton in Game Three of the Stanley Cup Final, the National Hockey League announced today.

"Two factors were considered in reaching this decision," said NHL Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations Mike Murphy(notes).  "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."

Rome was assessed a five-minute major penalty for interference and game misconduct at 5:07 of the first period.

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

Now with Rome out of the lineup, Alain Vigneault can sub in Keith Ballard(notes) back on the blue line, while Claude Julien will have to jigger his top lines with the absence of Horton and re-entry of Tyler Seguin(notes).

Given the NHL's past in doling out supplemental discipline, a suspension for Rome wasn't a sure thing. In the past, when players were given game misconduct's early on, that seemed to be enough of a punishment and nothing further was given. In Rome's case, as in certain others, the end result of the hit was what ultimately decided the punishment.

Considering Rome's season is over -- in a suspension similarly structured to one Matt Cooke(notes) received at the end of the season -- we'll be hearing once again about whether or not this is the NHL finally getting serious about player safety. But in reality, the league's past inconsistencies give us no reason to believe things are finally heading in a different direction. Until there's a consistency at being consistent, the NHL still needs to prove that head shots and dangerous play have no room in the game and prove that with serious repercussions to the players being punished.

The coming overhaul of the supplemental discipline process in the offseason gives us hope that come next season, the debates about whether or not a suspension or non-suspension is the right call will hopefully minimize.

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