- Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
BOSTON -- Injured Boston Bruins forward Nathan Horton made a surprise appearance in the locker room after the team's 4-0 victory over the Vancouver Canucks in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals Wednesday night at TD Garden.
Horton, who suffered a severe concussion after a late hit from Vancouver defenseman Aaron Rome in the first period of Boston's Game 3 triumph on Monday, is sidelined for the remainder of the season, but unbeknownst to his teammates, trekked to the Garden in order to hand off the MVP jacket the team had hung in his locker in his honor after Monday's win.
Horton entered as coach Claude Julien was addressing his players. He spoke briefly before handing off the old vinyl jacket to Rich Peverley, who scored two of Boston's four goals Wednesday while skating in place of Horton on the Bruins' top line.
"It was very emotional," said Peverley, wearing the jacket as he addressed reporters. "He came in, spoke a little bit. To be able to fill in for him, like I said, we did the job tonight, but I thought it was a whole team effort."
Players said Horton was in good spirits and just seeing him moving around was an encouraging sign for a team that wasn't sure when it would see their fallen teammate again. The Bruins are headed back to Vancouver with the series tied 2-2 for Game 5 on Friday.
"I was very, very happy to see Nathan up and around in the locker room," goalie Tim Thomas said. "I wasn't exactly sure of his status. I'd heard that he was OK, but ... when I personally got to see him in the locker room, I was incredibly happy and it gave me a big boost.
"He was there to pass the jacket on. We didn't pass the jacket on the last game with him gone. I think the team would have been happy leaving it with Horty for the rest of this series, but he wanted to give it away and keep the tradition going that we'd started."
"I didn't know he was here, I don't think a lot of guys did," Shawn Thornton said. "He's such a good guy, such a positive influence in this room and the team. He makes everyone in here feel better about themselves, he really does. He's been such a good teammate all year, so to see him come in the room, I'm pretty sure everyone got a pretty good kick out of that. We're very happy to see him, see him walking around and doing OK."
Thornton said Horton didn't say much other than telling the team, "Great job," before handing off the jacket.
Brad Marchand admitted it was a "sigh of relief" to see Horton around the team again.
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said before Wednesday's game that he had not spoken with forward Horton, but had exchanged text messages with Horton's wife.
"There's no update," Chiarelli said. "Everything remains the same today. His wife texted me back, saying that he's sleeping, feeling better and he'll get back to me, but I haven't heard from him yet today. But he was resting peacefully and the headaches were getting better."
Horton's agent, Paul Krepelka, said Horton had been resting at home during Game 4 with "typical" concussion symptoms, saying Horton has headaches and is fatigued. But he evidently improved enough to make the surprise appearance.
Krepelka said Horton has heard about all the well wishes from Bruins fans and wanted to express his gratitude.
Bruins legend Bobby Orr was Wednesday night's honorary pregame captain and waved a No. 18 Horton flag.
Vancouver GM Mike Gillis talked with Chiarelli on Wednesday afternoon and expressed the organization's well wishes for Horton.
"Mike Gillis pulled me aside at the GM meeting today and said, 'Aaron wants you to know that he's going to reach out to Nathan and he's very sorry for what he did.' It was a nice gesture," Chiarelli said.
Chiarelli also said he believes Rome, who was suspended for four games by the league, has reached out to Horton via a third party.
"I suspect that he maybe has tried. I know he knows Shawn Thornton. Maybe he did through Shawn," Chiarelli said. "I know when (Zdeno Chara) got into the stuff with (Max) Pacioretty, he tried to reach out through another player. That's generally what happens."
Rome participated in the pregame skate at TD Garden with his teammates Wednesday. He wasn't in the Canucks' locker room after the workout, however. Rome still hasn't publicly commented on his devastating hit.
General managers from around the NHL met Wednesday to discuss a variety of topics, including changes to Rule 48, which addesses head shots and blindside contact.
Chiarelli would not get into specifics because the amendment still has to go before the competition committee and the Board of Governors, but said there would be an expansion on the restrictions of head shots.
"I think it was a huge step from 48 in its initial form, which I thought was a huge step," Chiarelli said.
Chris Forsberg covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com. Information from ESPNBoston.com's Joe McDonald and James Murphy and The Associated Press contributed to this report.