August 25, 2011
Vancouver Canucks defenseman Aaron Rome(notes) was suspended for four playoff games by the NHL after knocking Boston Bruins forward Nathan Horton(notes) out of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final with a late hit.
The moment became a turning point in the championship round, as Rome's suspension cost his team a body on defense and gave the Bruins a rallying cry in their title run. It was a regrettable moment, and Rome showed nothing but remorse after his 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."
Rome also issued a back-channel apology to the Bruins and Horton through his general manager Mike Gillis.
But what about a direct apology to Horton?
Horton feels they've been insufficient. From Kalman:
"Just through a text message I heard [from him], but I mean, I wouldn't be throwing a text message someone's way, you know?" Horton said. "I'd have a little more respect to try to make a phone call."
Well, if Rome is still in the NHL by midseason, there won't be a need for a text or a call because Horton and Rome will get a chance to line up opposite one another for the first time since the hit. Don't be surprised if Horton pretends Rome is Dion Phaneuf(notes) and goes after the Canucks backliner.
Were I in Horton's skates, I'd probably want more than a text message and some canned regret on the team website, too. But is this really a matter of respect or just the way these things go in the NHL?
New Jersey Devils center Dave Steckel(notes) is heretofore known as "The Man Who Concussed Sidney Crosby(notes)." Like Rome, he offered public sympathy, even if the hits weren't comparable. Like Rome, he went back-channel with an apology after his Winter Classic collision injured Crosby. From the Post-Gazette:
Steckel said that although he has not spoken with Crosby since the incident, he asked Penguins defenseman Deryk Engelland(notes), a former teammate with Hershey in the American Hockey League, to pass a message along to him. "I talked to Deryk Engelland afterward and said, 'Tell Sid I'm really sorry. I didn't see him at all,' " Steckel said.
Engelland complied. Crosby's response?
"He just said, 'OK,' " Engelland said. "He obviously wanted to see what happened [on a replay]. That's about it."
Then there was the Ruslan Salei(notes) incident with Mike Modano(notes) back in 1999, when a hit from behind broke Modano's nose, gave him a slight concussion and a strained neck. The two signed with the Detroit Red Wings last summer, and Salei offered an apology to Modano for the first time after 12 years.
"I haven't gotten the chance to officially apologize to him," said Salei, who passed on an apology through a third party this summer after the two players both signed with Detroit.
"I probably will as soon as I see him so we can put that behind us, so you guys can stop asking me and him about that.
Of course, Nathan Horton has also witnessed a situation on his own team in which one player went out of his way to apologize to another: Zdeno Chara(notes), after he rode Max Pacioretty(notes) into a turnbuckle last season and onto a stretcher.
"I think he regrets what he did and I forgive him because he definitely made an effort to contact me and go out of his way to tell me how he felt," said Pacioretty. "I respect him for that."
These athletes are paid to win physical battles against their opponents, and frequently play on the edge of legality to do so. When they go over the edge and injuries occur, there's regret and remorse and embarrassment.
Admission of guilt is never immediate — like a fender-bender on the highway, you never apologize until after the authorities have handled the matter. An apology eventually arrives privately and, in the case of Rome and others, non-personally.
Does Rome owe Horton something beyond the apologies he's given? I suppose that's up to Horton. Although turning the tide of the Stanley Cup Final with his reckless hit could be seen by some as thanks enough.