BOSTON — Some might see it as sympathy for the devil. Others might see it as hockey people lamenting the unfortunate circumstances on a "hockey play" that took two players out of the Stanley Cup Final: one via a severe concussion, the other via a suspension for causing it.
Vancouver Canucks defenseman Aaron Rome was suspended for four games on Tuesday for a late hit on the Boston Bruins' Nathan Horton, who the Bruins reported is done for the season. So is Rome, effectively: Suspended for the duration of the Stanley Cup Final and into the 2011-12 regular season should the Bruins and Canucks finish before a seventh game.
Rome released a statement on Tuesday following the suspension:
"I want to express my concern for Nathan's well being and wish him a quick and full recovery. I try to play this game honestly and with integrity. As someone who has experienced this type of injury I am well aware of its serious nature and have no desire for another player to experience it. I will not take away my teammates' focus on the task at hand and intend to speak at an appropriate time in future."
His Vancouver teammates and coach disagreed with the ban and expressed sympathy for Horton — and for Rome.
"It's devastating," said center Manny Malhotra. "To be so close, to be playing in your dream, to now have it taken away, it obviously hurts a lot. That being said, he's still a huge part of our team in that room. Just his attitude, his mentality, his focus, he's going to help our guys a lot.
"I think as a group we don't agree with the suspension."
Henrik Sedin of the Canucks felt the suspension was too harsh.
Coach Alain Vigneault said Rome "isn't a dirty player, never has been, never will be." He said the 27-year-old defenseman is "disappointed" in the situation and its outcome:
"I don't think he could talk to you right now. He's very emotional. He's very disappointed. He's been taken out of the Stanley Cup playoffs. A couple of weeks ago, he was almost taken out of the Stanley Cup playoffs by another player in a situation that, in my mind, my opinion, was far worse. I don't think right now he could tell you anything because he's way too emotional about what happened."
The coach also disagreed with the league's ruling.
"I do think at the end of the day also it was a north/south play, Chara to Horton, he made a pass to Lucic. He was looking at his pass. Aaron was a tad late.
"In my opinion, it's not the right call. We've had instances just in the San Jose series, and Aaron was the player, where he's facing the board and he gets hit, there's no suspension there. Eager's hit on Danny in my mind, where again he's facing the board, doesn't get hurt, could have serious consequences. In my opinion, those were two suspendable offenses that weren't."
He was speaking about the Jamie McGinn hit on Aaron Rome that didn't result in a suspension for the San Jose Sharks player.
NHL VP Mike Murphy, who ruled on the case, said that Rome's defense in his hearing did make an impression, including the context of the McGinn hit.
"Yes, it does influence you. To what degree, I can't reveal that. But he was apologetic and contrite. They're two great qualities, because a series ago Aaron Rome was picking himself up off the ice with a concussion from a hit in a San Jose game.
"I have a lot of compassion for what he said. Had a lot of feeling for what he said. I did take it to heart. But I don't think it changed my mind a whole lot."
Murphy said that despite the suspension, Rome will be able to skate the Cup with his teammates should the Canucks win the championship.