Updated on June 7, 2011 at 12:10 p.m
By Adam Hoge-
CHICAGO (CBS) Another playoff hockey game, another dirty hit from the Vancouver Canucks.
This time it was defenseman Aaron Rome who blindsided Bruins forward Nathan Horton in a cowardly, inexplicable act of stupidity.
But this is the way the Canucks operate under Alain Vigneault – the master of turning a blind eye to recklessness and a defender of dirty hockey in the NHL.
He also happens to be a genius. Commissioner Gary Bettman has built a pathetic excuse of accountability in the NHL and the Canucks have taken advantage. This is the league that preaches a commitment to safety, but doesn’t hand down stern punishments when they are warranted. This is the league that won’t allow its players to police these matters on the ice like the old days, but then fails to fairly police them off the ice in the league office.
The result? Less accountability for dirty play and more dangerous hits on the ice.
And no coach/team has taken advantage of the precedent set by the NHL more than Vigneault and the Vancouver Canucks.
Rome’s hit on Horton Monday night was just another chapter in the story of what the Canucks are – a gutless, spineless group of cowards who also happen to be pretty damn good at hockey. Just two wins away from a Stanley Cup, they’ve gotten to where they are because they have combined their talent with timely, filthy hits that rattle their opponents’ cages and then they hide behind the protection of the referees and league officials who refuse to make them pay for their actions.
Do we need to revisit the Canucks-Blackhawks series? Remember when Raffi Torres delivered a headshot to Brent Seabrook, faced no suspension and then was protected by the referees when John Scott engaged Torres in Game 4?
The only message the NHL sent there was that the Canucks can get away with all the dirty play they want.
So no one should be surprised by Rome’s blindsided launch into Horton near the blue line Monday night. It was late, it was unnecessary and it was dirty. Horton landed flat on his back and was immediately motionless with his right arm hanging in the air. It was a scary enough scene that everyone watching the game immediately had to wonder if he was paralyzed.
And what did Vigneault have to say about the hit after the game?
“I don’t think that’s the hit that the league is trying to take out of the game,” he said.
That’s right. Keep defending your team’s cowardly actions. After all, you are only two wins away from getting away with all this nonsense and winning the Stanley Cup. If – and probably when – that happens I just hope Horton can get out of bed without his head ringing. How many brains are you willing to scramble to win it all, Alain?
Once again, the league has a chance to send a message here. I’m sure Rome will receive some kind of suspension, but only because he’s not a top line defenseman. What he should get is at least a four-game suspension, ending his participation in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Instead, I’m sure the league will find some way to give the Canucks another pass. The refs sure tried to keep the Bruins from sending their own message after the hit, but thankfully they were relentless and found their own creative ways to get their point across (Milan Lucic sticking his finger near Alexander Burrows’ mouth was brilliant). In the end, the Bruins scored eight times on Roberto Luongo to win round three of the fight 8-1.
Unfortunately, the Canucks are still a better team and without Horton, the Bruins have an even smaller chance of winning the series.
That means Gary Bettman is going to get exactly what he asked for: The dirty, spineless wonders from Vancouver are going to win the championship in a dangerous and hypocritical league league that doesn’t hold its players (or coaches) accountable for their actions.
Do you agree with Adam? Post your comments below.
Adam is the Sports Content Producer for CBSChicago.com and specializes in coverage of the White Sox, Blackhawks and college sports. He was born and raised in Lincoln Park and attended St. Ignatius College Prep before going off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned a Journalism degree. Follow him on Twitter @AdamHogeCBS and read more of his blogs here.