Brendan Shanahan doesn't have until next season to start implementing harsher discipline on NHL players for hits to the head.
This is something he clearly has to do now.
The Vancouver Canucks seem bent on making sure the hot spotlight of his new position shines down on him early, and with intensity. Alex Burrows was excused for biting Patrice Bergeron during a Game 1 scrum. So be it. The NHL may have got the call wrong, but no one was injured.
That isn't the case this time.
This time Aaron Rome hit Nathan Horton directly in the head two seconds after he got rid of the puck. This wasn't a Scott Stevens hit from the good ol' days. Rome left his feet, and delivered a check to the head of a defenseless player.
If the league wants to prove that it has the balls and, suddenly, the courage to make the correct call regardless of the situation, then that time has arrived. Right now.
Yes. This is the Stanley Cup Finals. And yes, games at this level of the tournament count for more than they do in the regular season. But the end result was a simple one.
Rome made the choice to hit Nathan Horton, who was carted off on a stretcher because of a reckless, dangerous play.
And before Canucks fans chime in with the "he shouldn't have been admiring his pass" arguments, let me ask you this: What if that had been one of the Sedin twins laying there, motionless on the ice? What if that had been Chara destroying the noggins of one of your most effective players?
You'd be calling for someone's head at that point.
As fans we can not continue to allow things slide just because of the colors the offending player is wearing. This was a late hit. Plain and simple.
If Rome pulls up here, we're talking about how the Canucks—who were apparently due to sweep the Bruins out of Boston—dropped a goose egg in Game 3. Instead we're again left wondering if the NHL can manage to get just one call right.
The time to set the tone for next season begins now. The rhythm and jive we'll all be expecting from this new group of Sheriffs begins right now. In this moment we will truly see is Shanahan is just a Campbell incumbent, or if he intends to do something that needs to be done from the War Room.
For all of our sakes, and for the sake of player safety, I hope it is the latter.
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