WASHINGTON -- It was, in the end, a minor bit of political pandering in a debate that featured its fair share. But when former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney announced to the New Hampshire crowd on Monday night that the Boston Bruins (a favorite in the Granite State) had jumped to a 4-0 lead in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals, eyebrows were raised.
How, after all, had Romney found out about the score while onstage with his fellow Republican candidates for president?
"He heard about the score from a staffer during a bathroom break," a campaign aide told The Huffington Post on Tuesday.
The entire episode seemed rather innocuous, even with early comparisons to an incident that took place last year in which an aide gave then-Florida gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink a bit of debate advice during a commercial break. That aide was fired for breaking debate rules.
An email to a representative from CNN, the debate's host, to see if briefing Romney on hockey scores constituted a similar breach wasn't immediately returned. But there seems to be an informal etiquette at play here: discussing news with a candidate in a midst of a debate is apparently fine, so long as that news doesn't pertain to the subjects of the debate.
"No rules against getting a sports score," emailed the Romney aide.
UPDATE: A CNN official confirms that there were no rules prohibiting a candidate from talking to staffers during Monday night's debate.
"There was no rule about contact with staff," the official emails. "We, of course, want to keep candidates from being swarmed by staff, families, and supporters during breaks because we need to get them back to their podiums. But we had no formal or informal rule about "contact" with staff."
Watch Romney announce the Bruins score during Monday night's debate: