Capitals’ Wilson’s Suspension Reduced

Tom Wilson’s 20-game suspension for an illegal check to the head of St. Louis Blues’ forward Oskar Lundqvist has been reduced from 20 games to 14 games by a neutral arbitrator, Elliotte Friedman reported Tuesday. Wilson was suspended in the final game of the preseason and lost an appeal to reduce the suspension earlier this season when commissioner Gary Bettman ruled that the punishment was suitable for his actions.

Wilson is a repeat offender and has been suspended four times in the last 105 preseason, regular season and postseason contests. As a result, the NHL ruled that Wilson simply hadn’t learned from his past transgressions and needed to fully understand the consequences of his actions.

Tom Wilson Capitals
Tom Wilson, Washington Capitals, March. 18, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

As Frank Seravalli reported, Bettman said the following in a statement regarding the upholding of Wilson’s suspension:

“Mr. Wilson’s recent play has threatened the safety and well-being of opposing players on too many occasions, despite prior discipline … and despite considerable efforts of [DoPS] to counsel Mr. Wilson on how to play within the rules.”

As Friedman mentioned, Wilson obviously can’t get the games he’s missed back but he will still get some salary back. The initial suspension cost him $1,260,162.60 for 20 games. Pro-rating that should mean that Wilson’s new forfeited money would be $882,113.82, saving him $378,048.78.

Full Transcript of the Original Player Safety Video

Below is a full transcript of the NHL’s original ruling on Wilson from their Player Safety video:

Sunday afternoon in Washington, Capitals’ forward Tom Wilson was assessed a match penalty for an illegal check to the head of Blues’ forward Oskar Sundqvist.

As the video shows, Sundqvist takes a pass from a teammate and breaks into the Capitals’ zone on the rush as Wilson backchecks through center. Sundqvist begins to move to the center of the ice. Wilson sees this and gains speed with a quick crossover. Sunqvist continues on his path and releases a shot on goal. As he does so, Wilson delivers a high, forceful hit which makes Sunqvsist’s head the main point of contact, on a hit where such head contact was avoidable and causes an injury. This is an illegal check to the head.

It is important to note that Sunqivst is eligible to be checked on this play. Players cutting to the center of the ice understand and accept that they may be the recipient of a hard, full-body hit from an opponent. However, rather than hitting through Sunqivst’s core and delivering a legal, full-body check, Wilson takes a poor angle of approach that picks Sundqvist’s head and makes it the main point of contact.

It is also important to note that the head contact on this play is avoidable. Sundqvist does not materially change the position of his head or body just prior to or simultaneous with contact in a way that significantly contributes to the head being the main point of contact.

While Sundqvist does adjust his arms in the course of taking a shot, his head and core continue on a consistent path from the moment Wilson commits to this hit. This hit is entirely in Wilson’s control and with time to take a better angle of approach that hits through Sunqvists’ core, Wilson instead delivers a hit that picks Sunqivst’s head and causes an injury.

In determining the length of suspensions, the collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association states:

“Players who repeatedly violate league playing rules will be more severely punishes for each new violation.”

Wilson was suspended on three occasions during the 2017-18 NHL season. On Sept. 22nd, 2017, he was suspended for a late, high hit on Robert Thomas. Just two preseason games later, Wilson was again suspended This time for boarding Samuel Blais. Seven months later, Wilson was suspended for an illegal check to the head of Zach Aston-Reese.

This hit on Sundqvist occurred in only his 16th game since his last suspension, which was also for an illegal check to the head. In short, including preseason and postseason games played, this is Wilson’s fourth suspension in his last 105 games – an unprecedented frequency of suspensions in the history of the Department of Player Safety.

To summarize, this is an illegal check to the head. Sunqvist suffered an injury on the play. Wilson is a repeat offender under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement.

The Department of Player Safety has suspended Tom Wilson for 20 games.