I’m so annoyed that after the pure mainline rush that was Game 1, I have to think about Tom Wilson’s dirty-ass play. Imagine how Jonathan Marchessault feels:
Wilson, a talented winger who is also a danger to those around him, laid a monster hit on Marchessault in the third period of Monday’s 6-4 Golden Knights win over the Caps. Marchessault was looking the other way ... at the puck ... which was nowhere near him. It wasn’t merely a “late” hit; it was a hit on a player uninvolved with the play.
Of course, that’s not how Wilson tells it.
“I haven’t obviously slowed it down and looked at it but I think he’d probably say he shouldn’t have admired his pass and I’m just finishing my check,” Wilson said.
The NHL’s Department of Player Safety will look at the hit again today, and decide whether to discipline Wilson. In a vacuum, probably nothing happens—the league doesn’t have much of a track record of suspending for hits that don’t target an opponent’s head, no matter how late. But this isn’t a vacuum. Wilson has been suspended three times already this season, including three games in the second round for a jaw-breaking hit on Pittsburgh’s Zach Aston-Reese. Wilson is going to keep injuring people unless (and apparently even if) he faces consequences for his hits.
“I saw the hit. I remember everything,” said Marchessault, who went through concussion protocol but returned to finish the game. “It was a late hit. I don’t really need to talk more about it. I think the league will take care of it. We know what type of player he is out there.”
Golden Knights fourth-liner Ryan Reaves added: “It was a late blindside hit like Wilson always does.”
Wilson was assessed a two-minute minor for interference (which was offset by a cross-checking call on David Perron), but that’s not enough. If the league isn’t going to do anything here, the officials on the ice sure should have. Rule 56.4 of the rulebook specifically addresses this, empowering a referee to assess a major penalty on interference “based on the degree of violence.” How much more violent does this need to get?
Rule 56.5, following on, stipulates a game misconduct with the major, meaning Wilson would have been out of there, and he (and Washington) would have suffered actual consequences for the hit.
It is a coincidence, but I am put in mind of the big concussion reporting TSN is dropping this week, including emails uncovered in retired players’ class-action suit against the NHL. They show league executives discussing how to keep brain injuries from becoming a big media story, and one of the ideas raised was to not punish dangerous hits so conspicuously.
NHL senior vice-president of hockey operations Mike Murphy wrote in an Oct. 6, 2007, email to director of hockey operations Colin Campbell that “We need to make sure every elbow to the head is not a major penalty. Five-minute majors attract attention. Two-minute minors go away quickly, especially with the media.”
Well, guess what. Tolerating Tom Wilson won’t make the danger he poses go away.