Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

It's the same league: NHL is the Tom Wilsons and Ryan Millers (and the wrong one is leaving)

Wilson’s brutalism (l.) and the touching Miller moment are of the same “tradition.” Time to end one.
Wilson’s brutalism (l.) and the touching Miller moment are of the same “tradition.” Time to end one.
Image: NBC Sports Washington (left); Getty (r.) (Getty Images)

Before we get to Tom Wilson, let’s check out this video from Ryan Miller’s last start on Sunday after he announced his retirement last week. And have the sound on if possible:

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Now, this isn’t to degrade the moment, because it was lovely. Maybe a touch overwrought, as Miller is a very good goalie, not a legendary one. But he’s had an excellent career, and if the Kings wanted to send him off as well as his teammates, that’s cool. You’ll hear the Ducks announcers talk about the tremendous respect all NHL players have for each other of course, and how no other sport is like it. And they’re hardly the only ones within the NHL world that truly believe that. What they really mean is that there’s no taunting and posing and fun celebrations in hockey, which generally tends to be thinly veiled racism, but let’s put that to the side just for now.

Now let’s get to Tom Wilson after all that talk of respect among coworkers and competitors:

Wilson tried to seriously injure two players in the span of a few seconds. Panarin might not play again this season, though that’s partly due to the Rangers having nothing to play for now. We do this every few weeks with Wilson, but nothing happens because the NHL still thinks it’s the league from the Miller video above and not this league. It’s both of these leagues, but if it never acknowledges that it’s also these Wilson clips, nothing ever changes. Banning Wilson for the rest of the season and playoffs might actually get through the wrought iron skull he apparently has, but the league will come up with some sort of loophole or caveat to have to save themselves from doing it. Whether it’s out of fear of its illiterate portion of its fanbase or the players, or it actually likes this without wanting to admit it, Wilson will face barely a cursory penalty. Because they think, again, they’re the league from the first video only, and Wilson is a part of that, he just loses sight of that from time to time. To time. To time. And another time.

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And his fellow players will keep in line. It’s only been seven years. Any day now, he’ll get the message.

Wilson is certainly an extreme example of hockey’s discipline problem. But an outlier? That’s hard to state. There are probably half a dozen players in the league, maybe more, who are capable of turning into the same psychopath that Wilson does, if only for a moment. And nothing ever changes.

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If the league or players’ union won’t put a stop to this, then they’re not the “league of respect” that they so desperately want you to believe. Because they’re putting a hazard to everyone’s career and health out there every night without any check on it. They obviously can’t respect each other that much if they can’t find a way to remove a menace to everyone.

Because they’re this league too:

We can't be too careful. Two guys in an airport...talking? It's a little fishy.