Stanley Cup Finals 2011: Vancouver Canucks vs. Boston Bruins About To Get Ugly?

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Stanley Cup Finals 2011: Vancouver Canucks vs. Boston Bruins About To Get Ugly?
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Boston's Nathan Horton being taken off the ice

If you are like me, you are still reeling over Monday’s Stanley Cup Game 3 in Boston.  Depending on your ideal of the game of hockey, you either felt that it was a sad display of how far the game has fallen or the Reggie Dunlop in you came out and you were screaming, “YEAH!  Old-time hockey!”

At first blush, many of us, regardless of our opinions of the on-ice antics of Game 3, were pretty sure that after all the excitement, this series was going to continue to be a barnburner.  Well, we may want to find the fire hose at this point because, as I have written about recently, there is a new fire chief in town.

I, for one, was pretty excited for Game 4 because, while I am firmly against headshots (and finger-biting), I fall into the Reggie Dunlop group.  I felt that the five-minute major and the ejection of Vancouver’s Aaron Rome from the game for his nasty hit on Nathan Horton was appropriate.  I expected possibly a one-game suspension to be handed down.

What came down Tuesday made we wonder if I was living in the Twilight Zone.  Rome was given a four-game suspension for the above-mentioned hit which was the catalyst for a game that ended with some 145 penalty minutes and footage that should keep the webmaster at hockeyfights.com very busy.

While many of us were in a rage during the regular season over headshots that Colin Campbell refused to give any supplemental discipline to, it was obvious by this suspension they are clearly sending a message.  This just might be what Gary Bettman was talking about when he referenced having a “clean slate” with a new face to the disciplinarian arm of the NHL in Brendan Shanahan.

Elsa/Getty Images
Vancouver's Aaron Rome leaving the ice after his hit on Horton

Mike Murphy, one of the NHL VPs of Hockey Operations, the guy in charge of the war room, held a very telling press conference on Tuesday.  He made it crystal clear that what happened during Game 3 will not be happening again (sorry, Reggie!).  While their explanation for the overzealous suspension on Rome was highly questionable, there was a plus in the way the decision was made.

According to Murphy, it was a collective decision.  He spoke about a committee-like decision-making body which included, at least, Murphy, Brendan Shanahan and Brian Burke, the GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs.  

This is a huge step in the right direction for the league regarding discipline and it is quite possible that this committee is not only sending a message to the Canucks and the Bruins, but to the entire NHL, giving them a sense of what is to come in the 2011-12 season.

Murphy was emphatic during Tuesday’s press conference that the stunt by Boston’s Milan Lucic, wagging his finger in the face of Vancouver’s Mike Burrows, was not going to be tolerated again.  The consequence for anything remotely related to the biting incident will be given a two-minute penalty plus a 10-minute misconduct.  He also explained that both teams have been warned about this new policy as well.

While the hit on Nathan Horton may have been a significant motivator for the Bruins to step up and play in a fashion that they are known for, the League has sent a very stern message: This will not get ugly.  

There are many viewers who do not necessarily follow hockey during the regular season and to have this kind of negative spin put on the game on an international stage during the Finals is not making the league’s front office in Toronto smile.

Expect to see the officials in Game 4 supervise a much tighter and more disciplined game with the first inkling of Game 3 behavior to be smacked down hard.  Yet, something tells me that someone may still have some residual chippiness from Tuesday that may rear its ugly head Wednesday night—just for the fun of it. 

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