By Ian Oland
Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson spoke to the media on Friday for the first time since being suspended seven games for boarding Flyers defenseman Brandon Carlo. The hit sent Carlo to the hospital. A day later, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety suspended Wilson for the “totality of circumstances”
Wilson, who is set to return Saturday against the New York Rangers, was not interested in debating with the decision saying that he was going to “keep that (opinion) to myself, keep that in the locker room.”
But Wilson admitted that he must continue to adjust and focus more on making hockey plays than big hits.
A transcription of the full interview is below.
What did you think about the suspension?
Tom Wilson: Obviously, you probably heard a lot about it on social media and all of that. I digested it after the first couple of days as a way to try and get focused on myself making sure I’m ready when the team has me back and when I can get back in there. It’s one of those situations where you kind of hoped it didn’t happen for a number of different reasons, but it is what it is. I’ve just got to control the future.
You stayed clear of DoPS for a season or so. Do you have to make more adjustments to your game?
Tom Wilson: I have to continue to adjust. The game is always adapting year to year. At the end of the day, it can’t happen. I can’t be missing seven games. I can’t be missing one game. I have to be in the lineup. As you look around the league, there’s a lot of different stuff going on. There’s some confusion. There’s some [hypocrisy]. There’s a lot of different things going on. I just have to worry about helping the team win, playing good hockey. I’ve been physical my whole life. That’s in me. That’s bred in me. I’m always going to try and be a physical player. For now, I just have to continue to develop my offense and chip in offensively, and help the team win. Obviously, be more careful to make sure I’m not putting myself in those spots.
Did you reach out to Brandon Carlo to see how he was doing?
Tom Wilson: I did, yeah. A lot of people probably wouldn’t believe me, but you never want to see a fellow peer get injured. They’re hockey players just like I am. This is their living. Their livelihood. When a guy goes down, it’s not a good feeling. I texted him the next day and I was happy to hear he was feeling better. It was a couple of weeks ago now. Just trying to move forward and build my game.
How do you internalize all the haters on social media? You’re painted as a villain outside of Washington.
Tom Wilson: Social media is a scary place right now on a number of different levels: hockey, the world. It’s not a nice place. It’s not a friendly place. People feel like they can say whatever they want. It’s nothing new to me. That’s been there throughout my whole career. I’m not going to sit here and say it bothered me a ton. Obviously, you don’t want to see a lot of that being said. I think everybody, in general, can do a better job. That being said, the support from DC, the support from the Capitals organization. For all of the haters you see, there’s a lot of good that you see and a lot of friends and family and around the game of hockey that reaches out and supports you. It’s one of those things that there are ups and downs. I just have to move forward and stay on the ice.
How difficult has it been not to play for two weeks? Has it helped that the team has won without you?
Tom Wilson: That helps a lot. Part of the reason I hate missing time is I feel like I’m not there to help the team. When they go out there and take care of business, they play the way they are, you’re a proud teammate. You’re extremely happy. They’ve been playing great hockey. I’ve been traveling with them. I’ve been practicing with them every day so I’ve been staying fairly involved. That’s been nice to keep my mind on hockey. Moving forward, it’s crunch time now. There are 20-something games left. This is meaningful hockey. This is when we ramp everything up. I just want to hit the ground running and try and jump right in where we left off.
Do you think you’ll have any rust when you get in on Saturday?
Tom Wilson: I think when you’re around the team and practicing, your mind stays sharp. You’re there. You’re around for the inside jokes, the camaraderie, all that. You don’t feel like you’re missing as much. It is a shortened season. The games hold a lot more weight. It sucked. It did go by a little quicker — a week and a half, two weeks. They’ve been doing a great job playing good hockey. Hopefully, they can keep it rolling tonight and go from there.
We heard a lot of your teammates angry about how the NHL treated your hit to Leo Komarov’s board of Lars Eller. Was there any added frustration from you to see that hit go without any supplemental discipline?
Tom Wilson: I don’t want to talk too much about specifics. That’s not why I’m here. That’s not part of my job. My job is to control what I can control. You can’t control what Player Safety does in other situations. You can’t control how other players play the game. Hockey is a very tough sport. Every single play is different. That’s just the nature of the sport. It can be frustrating when you start to [compare and contrast] around the league. With that being said, I like to deal with the reality of the situation and like I said control my end. There a lot of different things out there that you can probably pay attention to. That’s just not smart from my end and not worth my time to get bent out of shape about.
Do you think Player Safety judges you differently than other players?
Tom Wilson: That’s a tough question. That’s probably one you have to ask them. I can believe a lot of different things. I can analyze the situation just like all of you have and like everybody in Toronto and everybody across the National Hockey League. Everybody can build their opinion. I’m not going to tell you my opinion. I can keep that to myself, keep that in the locker room. Obviously, my teammates supporting me means a lot. I would have their backs in a tough situation. I guess you have to take it for what it’s worth. There’s a lot of guys talking about it around the league right now: captains, teams saying things about the physical aspect of the game. It’s going to difficult moving forward. It’s a fast game. It’s a hard game and safety is important. It’s a tough job. I just want to focus on what I can control.
After your last suspension, you talked to George Parros and went over video. You lowered your target with your hits. Is that the crux of your problem, that you have to hit lower? Walk me through what technical part you have to explain.
Tom Wilson: It had been almost 200 games and over 600 hits since I talked to them. Part of my game is physicality. That’s what I need to do to be in the league and that’s something hockey has always been. It’s been a hard-hitting game. As I get stronger and faster, those are hard hits. To answer your question, you have to stay out of situations that might not end in the result you want. The past one is an extremely tough one. I actually get butt-ended in the face before the hit. That changes things. Hockey is a crazy sport and I’m not going to reflect too much on past hits. Just moving forward, like you said, whether it’s finishing lower and going after the puck a little bit more, just try to make hockey plays and stay on the ice. It’s tough to dive into too much detail. Everything happens really fast and a lot of instinct comes into play in the game of hockey.
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