Aaron Rome. A plugger on the blueline for the Vancouver Canucks and the recipient of a four game suspension from the NHL for his late hit that knocked Bruins winger Nathan Horton right out of the playoffs. Interim head of NHL discipline Mike Murphy decided to come down hard on the Canucks number 6 defenceman instead of the usual slap on the wrist that they've been giving out all year long. There is no question what so ever that the hit deserved a suspension as it was a dirty, late hit delivered by Rome but it's the severity of the suspension that's strange. Now the question becomes if this is going to become the norm for the NHL or if Rome got such a hefty suspension because he's a plug on the backend and not a star?
Playoff suspensions have always been less severe then those handed out during the regular season because the league never really wants to handicap teams during the dance. This was never more evident then during the 2007 run to the cup for the Anaheim Ducks. In the Western Conference final Chris Pronger was given a 1 game suspension for driving Tomas Holmstrom's head through the boards from behind. In the Stanley Cup finals against Ottawa he was given another 1 game suspension for decapitating Dean McAmmond with his elbow. In the 2009 Stanley Cup finals, Colin Campbell rescinded a mandatory one game suspension for instigating a fight delivered to Evgeni Malkin and even just this year Alex Burrows got away with biting the finger of Patrice Bergeron (although if Bergeron is going to stick his finger in Burrows' mouth then he risked it). If we go back a little ways this modern culture may have been instilled during the 1996 Western Conference finals when Claude Lemieux ran Kris Draper into the boards from behind which resulted in serious injuries and Lemieux received a measly 2 game suspension. Ron Hextall and Dale Hunter received long suspensions due to actions during the playoffs but didn't miss any playoff games as their teams were eliminated in those games which they were eliminated.
Whether it's been Brian Burke, Colin Campbell, or Mike Murphy the NHL's head office has shown that, especially during the playoffs, that they're more then willing to get tough with 3rd and 4th liners in terms of suspensions but the stars get a free pass. This, unfortunately, will never change. Why? Because the TV executives at NBC will not like it if a centrepiece for the product they're trying to sell is healthy but not on the ice. Along with them Bettman probably doesn't like getting on the bad side of some of the owners that employ him who The league has shown that it couldn't care less what CBC or it's paying fans think so that leaves these two groups as those who the head office is trying to please. This Aaron Rome is just more of the same and now he's lost the chance to be on the ice if the Vancouver Canucks win the cup because of a head office trying to make an example out of a depth player to excuse their lack of action the rest of the year.