Tom Wilson spoke publicly for the first time since his role in a polarizing incident. The Washington Capitals’ forward called the event a “crazy moment” while boldly defending his actions and blaming the New York Rangers’ Pavel Buchnevich. He didn’t address the actions against Artemi Panarin and downplayed the whole scene as a routine hockey play. Wilson attempted to characterize himself as the victim, as he stated “nothing I say right now is going to change anybody’s opinion. They’ve already made that up.”
Wilson, who was fined $5,000 for punching Buchnevich in the back of the head while he was face down on the ice, said the Rangers’ forward was “kicking” and “sticking” the Capitals’ goalie, and he had to respond. “At a young age in hockey, you are taught to stand up for your goalie.”
Wilson’s After the Whistle Actions Made Him Public Enemy Number One
While no one in the sport would dispute his statement to protect the goalie, it’s his actions in the moments after that have made him public enemy number one. Artemi Panarin tried to stop Wilson from punching Buchnevich. Wilson, who outweighs the star player by 50 pounds, took Panarin’s helmet off, grabbed his hair and slammed him to the ice head first – twice. Panarin is out for the season. The NHL did not take any action for what happened to one of the league’s most talented scorers. Wilson, who flexed from the penalty box after injuring Panarin, said he is glad the star player is on the mend. “I reached out to him, and that is really all that matters right now.”
Wilson is correct in his statement that many people have made up their minds. He has been suspended five times and fined three times by the NHL. Earlier this season, he was suspended for seven games after a dirty hit on the Boston Bruins’ Brandon Carlo. Carlo missed ten games with a concussion. It’s his history that has had many people come to a conclusion about the player.
Defend The Net, But There is a Line
Toronto Maple Leafs’ captain, John Tavares, said, “I think when you have a history like he does, you’re always going to question the intent and the aggressive nature of it.” Tavares explained his concern for player safety and said no one should be getting hurt due to scrums. “I think there’s a competitive aspect and defending your net and being hard around scrums, but I think there’s certainly a time when it crosses the line – and to me, it did.”
The NHL’s decision to only issue a fine and not a suspension escalated the situation. The New York Rangers issued a statement criticizing the League’s inactions and calling for George Parros, the head of NHL Player Safety, to be removed. The Rangers were fined $250,000 for the statement. But New York wasn’t done. In the next game against the Caps, the Rangers set a record for fights in the first five minutes of a game – all in front of a national television audience. While the two teams don’t meet again this season. It seems the situation is a long way from being behind anyone – including Wilson.
Kevin Armstrong is an award-winning journalist with more than two decades of experience. He’s been rink side for World Juniors, Memorial Cups, Calder Cups and Stanley Cups. Like many Canadian kids, his earliest memories include hockey. Kevin has spent countless hours in arenas throughout the country watching all levels of the game.