For hockey fans that like violence with a side of hockey, the Capitals and Rangers’ season opener promises to have fireworks for a third straight game.
Shortly after a Tom Wilson-inspired line brawl saw the Capitals enforcer punch Pavel Buchnevich from behind and manhandle Artemi Panarin, the Rangers cleaned house and remade their team with toughness in mind, acquiring three players not afraid to mix it up. New Rangers GM Chris Drury traded for and signed Barclay Goodrow to a huge longterm deal, inked Jarred Tinordi to a two-year contract, and traded for heavyweight enforcer Ryan Reaves – the self-proclaimed solution to your Tom Wilson problem.
While Reaves hasn’t commented on the Wilson-Rangers beef since being acquired by NYR, he did address it in May while still a member of the Vegas Golden Knights. During an interview on John Scott’s podcast, Reaves shared his opinion on the kerfuffle, how the NHL handled the situation, and what he would have done if he were on the Rangers.
“You know, I was texting with (Jonathan) Marchessault- he sent me the clip,” Reaves said. “I think exactly what I said was, ‘I can’t tell if this going to be nothing — he’s going to just walk completely clean — or if he’s going to get [a 50-game suspension].’ It’s how you interpret it. Because when you see it, that’s a scrum – well, ok he took that scrum a little bit too far. He slammed [Panarin’s] head on the ice with no helmet. He’s a superstar. But at the same time, it is just one of those scrums. Panarin jumped on his back. I couldn’t tell. But again, that’s another one of those scenarios where he knows he can do that and there’s going to be no repercussions.”
After the game, Wilson was fined by the NHL, but not suspended. The Rangers released a press release condemning the NHL, calling Wilson’s actions a “horrifying act of violence.” The two teams had a second line brawl two nights later, posting 100 penalty minutes in the first period alone. Defenseman Brendan Smith fought Wilson.
“New York, if they had anyone in their system, they would have called him up for the next game,” Reaves said. “There would have been repercussions. And yeah, they had guys step up. There were a ton of fights. That was great on their team. I don’t think Tom Wilson was scared to go into that next game – although he did leave it (early).”
Reaves has had many run-ins with Wilson over the years, either via trash talk or his fists. Reaves has fought the Capitals first-line forward twice in his career and knocked him out with a concussion via a dirty, blindside hit several years ago.
When Scott asked Reaves if Wilson would have had the same behavior with him on the bench, Reaves said “probably not.”
“Not a chance, right?” Scott, the legendary, retired NHL enforcer said. “I said the same thing. If there’s any type of toughness on the Rangers, he maybe grabs Panarin and that’s it.”
“Because if that happens and he doesn’t get kicked out of that game, I can promise you, we’re fighting three times that game,” Reaves said. “And if he does get kicked out of that game, I promise you, I’m telling him, ‘We’re fighting three times (next game) or I’m jumping you. Take your pick. Defend yourself or let’s just get it over with.'”
Scott said he was shocked the NHL only fined Wilson for what happened, believing the NHL was going to throw the book at him.
Reaves replied, “Like I said, I couldn’t tell which way it was going but he did just come off a suspension too, which I thought might have played into it too because that makes him an immediate repeat offender but I guess they just saw it as a scrum. But then, you know…”
He then trailed off and decided to stop talking about the topic.
“We’ll get away from that,” Reaves said laughing.
The Capitals and Rangers play each other on Wednesday, October 13 at Capital One Arena to kick off the 2021-22 season.
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