Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson is one of the toughest and most feared players in the NHL. But there are times when Tom is more reserved on when he throws hands or not.
Recently retired defenseman and enforcer, Mark Borowiecki, spoke about one of those moments while a guest on the Coming In Hot podcast featuring Brent Wallace, Jason York, and Bobby Ryan.
According to Borowiecki, the two agreed to fake fight during their third and final career bout against each other.
“Tom Wilson I fought a couple times when I shouldn’t have been fighting and I wasn’t really ready,” Borowiecki, who had 113 bouts during his professional career, began. “He was like a legitimate heavy in the league and I wasn’t, so those didn’t go great.”
As a member of the Senators, Borowiecki had previously fought Wilson twice over a period of three years and lost both decisions.
“It was tough early on,” Borowiecki said. “I think I was just trying to make a name for myself. I think that’s where I went down the wrong path sometimes because I’m like ‘I’m just going to fight everyone.’ It doesn’t matter if I match up well against them. I was never really a huge guy, I was a gamer. I consider myself a middleweight.”
A few years later, as a member of the Nashville Predators, Borowiecki found himself on a hot streak and at a better place mentally about dropping the gloves.
“I actually trained to fight a little bit,” he said. “MMA guys, trained with them a lot. I was in a better place mentally where I didn’t view fighting as this like kill or be killed. This is just part of my job. I enjoyed the technical aspect of it. I think I sort of turned over a new leaf in Nashville and was more at peace with that role and am just more comfortable with it.
“I think I had 13 fights and went 11-2. Guys went ‘You’re a killer’ and I’m like ‘I’m a bit of a wiener out there to be honest.’ I was a punching bag for most of my career. I just sort of figured it out.”
That’s when, during a December 29, 2021 game against the Capitals, Borowiecki felt much more comfortable about tangling with Wilson. The Capitals enforcer had just landed a huge hit on Predators’ star Ryan Johansen and Boro felt obligated to stand up for his teammate.
— Christian Jason (@DosageSport) December 30, 2021
The fight turned out to be more aggressive grappling than face-punching and was quickly broken up by officials. The Predators’ Twitter account even joked “hockey hugs.”
🥰 hockey hugs pic.twitter.com/dApxrde7H1
— Nashville Predators (@PredsNHL) December 30, 2021
Online, the fight was universally hailed as terrible.
“WTF was that,” commented one HockeyFights.com commenter.
“This was more of a waltz than anything else,” said another. “It should’ve been on Dancing With The Stars, not Hockey Fights.”
“Boro calls Wilson out and then does the ‘standing turtle.'”
The fight was bad and there was a reason why it was. It wasn’t a real fight according to Borowiecki.
“I’ll tell you a funny story with this one and all the HockeyFights.com people are probably going to be so mad at me for saying this,” Borowiecki said. “He had just come back from a concussion and blew up Johansen in Washington. I was getting a reputation for myself as being one of the tougher guys in the league at that point. I was like, ‘Willy, we gotta go bud.’ He was like ‘Aw, I just came back.’ I was like ‘No, sorry, dude. Like it’s time to go.’”
Wilson had missed just over two weeks of time after slamming his head into the Penguins’ goal frame. The Capitals termed his injury upper body in nature.
Wilson eventually gave Borowiecki an offer knowing he had to accept retribution for the big hit to a star player.
“He was like ‘Alright. Let’s just tie up and pretend to throw,'” Borowiecki said. “I was like ‘All right. Sweet!’ I get Tom Wilson on my fight card and don’t get punched!’”
Video on Hockey Fights appears to corroborate Borowiecki’s story as the two can be seen chatting a bunch before agreeing to duke it out.
“So we get into the corner tied up,” Borowiecki said. “We throw a couple of air muffins and then the linesmen came in, they did a great job. I actually saw people say ‘What a terrible fight. I was expecting more.’ I was like, ‘Oh if only you guys knew.’”
Wilson had similar behavior while making his season debut on January 9, 2023. After rehabbing his surgically repaired knee for months, Wilson declined a fight with Columbus Blue Jackets forward Mathieu Olivier.
“He wanted to fight and I just said ‘Hey give me a game to get my body back into it here,’” Wilson said then. “It’s fun going up against those guys but I had to politely decline at that point in the game.”
On the podcast, Borowiecki also spoke about his famous failed tussle with former Capital Zdeno Chara, while Zee was a member of the Boston Bruins in 2015. After both players threw off their gloves, Chara grabbed Borowiecki by the collar so hard that he was unable to get up and fight, leaving both players with roughing penalties.
“I was just trying to make a name for myself,” Borowiecki said. “I’d always ask him to fight – even after that one. At one point, he looked at me with that big slow accent, ‘You just can’t help yourself can you?’”
But that courage earned a giant amount of respect from the Norris Trophy-winning defenseman over the long run.
“So, our first game at UPS, which was his last season at the new rink there, I was skating around in warmups,” Borowiecki said. “Again I’d been running around that year. Someone comes over from my team and goes ‘Hey, Zee, wants to talk to you.’ I was like ‘Oh, god, he wants to talk to me during warmups. He wants to fight me.’
“So I skate over to the red, and he’s standing there and I’m looking up at him, and here I am thinking he’s going to ask me to go, and he goes ‘Can you sign a stick for me and send it over after the game?’ I was like looking around going ‘You want one of my sticks?’ He was like ‘Yeah, I’m going to be done playing, I’m collecting.’ I’m like’ You want my stick?’ And he’s like ‘Yes!’ I was like ‘Okay, man.’ Me and Zee have a good relationship now.”
Borowiecki said he and Chara now message each other quite a bit on Instagram and are real-life friends.
“I really respected how he aged in the league and was still such a viable player,” he said. “Prior to the injuries that did me in, I would have loved to be like that guy who kept finding jobs and was still valuable.”
Headline photo: Alan Dobbins/RMNB
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