Tom Wilson spoke to reporters Tuesday afternoon after an NHL arbitrator reduced his 20-game suspension by six, making him eligible for tonight’s game against the Minnesota Wild.
“First good day in a while,” Wilson said.
The Capitals forward first found out about the news in an early morning text. During the morning skate, Caps head coach Todd Reirden plopped the agitator back on the first line with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin.
Wilson struggled with the concept that he’s considered a dirty player by the league and fans, saying “I never wanted to be put in that category when I grew up playing.”
But will Wilson change to avoid these types of suspensions in the future? Based on Wilson’s comments to the press, it’s unclear. Wilson stated that he “thought a lot” about his suspension and if borderline, full-speed hits still work in today’s NHL. But he added, “there’s some confusion” on what’s legal or not and encouraged the league to make things more clear.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) November 13, 2018
What was your reaction when you got the news?
Tom Wilson: [It’s the] first good day in a while. It was definitely a nice text to get and the possibility of being in tonight just started the day off on the right foot. I’m obviously pretty excited to play some hockey again.
Have you thought about what’s next and how you’ll have to proceed forward with your game and the scrutiny that comes with that?
Tom Wilson: I’ve thought about it a lot. I’ve had lots of time to think about it and dissect parts of my game. And at the end of the day, at full speed, the rink’s not getting any bigger, guys are getting stronger and faster, and some of those hits at full speed might —- you know, whether I can or can’t make those [hits] anymore. Just putting myself in a good position not to have the ball in their court. Make sure that I’m controlling my end of it. Make sure I’m controlling what I can do. Because at the end of the day, missing 15, 16 games, that can’t happen. At the end of the day that’s on me, I have to control that better and make sure I’m out there playing.
Did you learn anything or pick up anything watching the past 16 games?
Tom Wilson: Yeah, you’re always kind of there. You’re still part of the team. You get to watch the games and you’ve got a unique vantage point. Guys come off the ice and it’s an emotional game, and a lot happens. There are ups and downs. I just try to be a good teammate when I could be and help the guys out if they had any questions about games or what was happening out there, what I saw. Just try to input whatever I could to help the team. It’s a tough spot. It’s not easy to watch. You don’t want to be too involved, but you want to be a good teammate and be around if guys want you.
Are you worried that this kind of thing will brand you as a dirty player?
Tom Wilson: You know what, it’s probably already happened. At this point, it’s no surprise. It doesn’t really sit well with me. I never wanted to be put in that category when I grew up playing. I never wanted my name to be associated that way.
At the end of the day, thinking back on it, it’s all happened pretty quick. I never had that reputation and then all of the sudden there’s a couple incidents and people are pretty upset. It is what it is.
There’s a spotlight on that part of the game right now, I think everyone knows. The physical play is definitely dialing down a little bit. There’s not as many hits. The game is getting faster and more skilled and when there are those big hits it’s such a hot topic that it gets instantly scrutinized.
I gotta make sure that, at the end of the day, I don’t want my name to be put in that category. It sucks to see players get hurt. I’ve been in that position, I’ve been hurt, I’ve had head injuries. It’s not good and it’s not a good feeling when a player you’re playing against ends up down on the ice and stuff. No one wants that, but at the end of the day, it’s hockey. It’s a hard-hitting game, it’s a physical sport. The rules are still the same and we gotta make sure that the players understand exactly what’s acceptable.
It’s a bit of a grey area right now, there’s some confusion. I think a lot of the media, the players, it’s a unique part of where the game’s at right now. It’s everyone’s responsibility to figure it out.
Any frustration on how long the appeal process took?
Tom Wilson: Yeah, there’s different parts of it. For a while, you wake up every day and you just hope, you hope, you hope there’s word. And then you get to the point like ‘you know what, I’m just looking at the 21st’ and if anything happens before that it’s great, but I’ll be ready.
I tried to do whatever I could so that if this did happen, I wake up this morning at 8:30 I kind of get the news, I gotta be ready to play. It was definitely a unique experience, one that you don’t ever want to go through, a bit eye-opening. At the end of the day, there’s a game tonight and I gotta focus on that. It’s a big road trip so I have to focus on this team getting back on track and do what I can to help out.
You sat out a while with an injury in the past, are there any similarities with the transition of jumping right back in the lineup?
Tom Wilson: It’s not going to be easy, I’m expecting that. Guys had 15, 16 games to get into regular-season shape, to get off all the rust from the summer. Teams are firing on all cylinders right now, so I’m going to have to jump into it pretty fast. Teams are executing well right now, it’s pretty good hockey out there.
You could say I’m still kind of in summer mode. I haven’t had those games to get me ready and it’s my job as a pro and as a teammate to be ready for this and go out there and work as hard as I can and bring what I can to the table in these first couple games until I get my feet under myself.
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