Tom Wilson was suspended seven games by the NHL after delivering a hit to Brandon Carlo Friday that sent the Boston Bruins defenseman out of the game and to the hospital. The hit went unpenalized by officials on the ice but DoPS stepped in after the hit was heavily criticized by Bruins media and hockey fans on social media.
Alex Ovechkin said that the suspension was a joke. “On the ice, even the ref said like ‘it’s not two minutes. It’s a [clean] hit.'”
Peter Laviolette said that the decision opened up a Pandora’s Box that any hit that is legal but “forceful and impactful to the player that has the puck” could be suspendible. TSN’s Frank Seravalli noted that the suspension was precedent-shattering and is the first time a player has suspended a player for boarding “on a hit that wasn’t from behind.”
It appears the NHL world largely agrees with the Capitals. Tuesday, while talking about the Wilson hit on the 31 Thoughts Podcast, Elliotte Friedman shared what he heard on the inside about Wilson’s hit.
“I did have a lot of people say to me that if this was anyone other than number 43 on the Capitals nobody would even be talking about this,” Friedman said. “Nobody would be. If this was a hit anyone else delivered, it wouldn’t be a penalty or a suspension a lot of people felt. But that’s what happens when you have the history. All of a sudden people look at you differently. You don’t get the benefit of the doubt. Name 400 other players in the league, if they throw that hit, they get nothing. But, because of his history that is what happens in this case.”
Friedman also shared what he thought happened behind the scenes.
“On Friday night, he throws the hit,” Friedman said. “Because there was head contact, the first thing everyone looks at is Rule 48. Illegal check to the head. And is the head the main point of contact? The answer there is no.
“My guess, the people in the NHL Department of Player Safety said this is not a Rule 48. And then when they started thinking about it, they looked at it and they were like, ‘We don’t like this. Is there anything else this is?’ And if you read Rule 41, which is boarding, you know it’s there.
“You can make that argument. I think that’s exactly what happened. They made that argument and they said that’s boarding. Now, it’s not precedence. That’s not the way boarding tends to get called. Boarding tends to get called when a guy is hit from behind. Carlo wasn’t hit from behind. I think that’s one of the things that the Capitals and possibly the Players Association discussed was, ‘You guys don’t call boarding like this.’ At the end of the day, that’s why it also wasn’t 30 or 40 games because boarding doesn’t carry those kinds of suspensions historically. The highest boarding penalty I could find for suspension was Zac Rinaldo in 2015. It was 8 games and Wilson gets 7. I think that’s why he got less.
“The other thing is, the Capitals argued it was a clean hit like some other people have said to me, but the league felt that the totality of it all was illegal.”
Friedman’s reporting will likely be maddening to both the Capitals and Capitals fans as it suggests the suspension was more for PR, Tom being massively strong, and Carlo’s injury than him technically delivering a hit that was illegal. The league should just ban any checks to the head or it further risks allowing inconsistency and prejudice into its rulings.
Thanks to the legend Cara Bahniuk for the transcription.
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