Two players have lost their chance to be on the ice when their team hoists the Stanley Cup—something Aaron Rome and Nathan Horton have dreamt of doing all their lives!
I've been speaking to a frustrated friend of mine regarding what exactly is the difference between the Aaron Rome hit on Nathan Horton, and the Zdeno Chara hit on Max Pacioretty, and more specifically, why does one warrant suspension and not the other?
Several questions come to mind when comparing the two incidents. People are wondering if Aaron Rome is the whipping boy for all other cases where a course of action against a player may have been justified? Have they simply punished the result (in Rome's case), as opposed to punishing the intent to injure? What is the difference between these two cases where somebody is hurt badly?
Most of the anger towards Zdeno Chara is coming from Montreal Canadiens fans and now being brought up by Vancouver Canucks fans. I would like to put myself in the shoes of NHL's Chief Disciplinarian and try to break down what I see to be the difference between the two scenarios in words.
The Chief Disciplinarian job is not an easy job and I am thankful not to have to make such decisions that will ultimately affect the lifelong dreams of one of my peers. It is, in fact, a thankless job.
Zdeno Chara was immediately thrown out of the game because something happened which needed further review and analysis. This does not prove his intent to injure. The same thing can be said for Aaron Rome.
When looking at the Chara hit, you have to consider the angle in which the two players approach the boards, the speed at which they were both travelling in the same direction, and try to imagine what Chara was looking at when it happened. Was it his intention to hurt Max Pacioretty and to smash his head into the stanchion? How reckless was this play, really?
I believe the only thing Zdeno Chara was deserving of here was a two-minute minor. I do not believe he intended to hurt Max Pacioretty. I believe he would have made the exact same play if the glass was there to prevent the injury, instead of the poor arena design that must be considered.
The result would have been much different if Chara had simply rubbed him out against the glass. Two minutes in the box for interference. The hit was not high, he did over-commit to the check, but he did not leave his feet or charge Pacioretty.
Therefore, I do not see this play as anything more than bad luck, bad timing and the result of a poor arena design. Zdeno Chara has never been involved in a supplementary discipline hearing before this, during his 13 years in the NHL.
I do not believe Aaron Rome intended to send Nathan Horton to the hospital. I applaud Aaron Rome for sending a text of concern to Nathan Horton. So in both cases the intent to injure can be thrown out. Intent is such a hard thing to prove, anyway. So what is the difference between the two plays?
Recklessness. Both Rome and Chara were focused on their opponents. Pacioretty was hurt, mainly from the stanchion. Horton was hurt, mainly from Rome.
Aaron Rome was well past the legal hit criteria for the league. The hit was to the head. He also left his feet and was guilty of interference , blindsiding Nathan Horton. A dangerous play, caused solely by his own actions and having little to do with bad luck, or a poor arena design.
I believe these subtle differences in the two plays justify the action taken.
I can say that this article was a difficult one to write and feel 100 percent confident in. I am sure those in charge of these trials must feel the same level of uncertainty.
I am just glad I get to take these "shoes" off now!