The NHL Department of Player Safety announced this afternoon that Capitals’ forward Tom Wilson has been suspended for two preseason games for a late hit he delivered on Blues’ forward Robert Thomas in Washington’s 4-0 loss to St. Louis on Friday.
The NHL Department of Player Safety said that Wilson had violated Rule 56 regarding interference. Wilson was not penalized for the check during the game, but Blues’ forward Dmitrij Jaskin took exception and fought Wilson following the hit.
Washington’s Tom Wilson suspended two preseason games for interference on St. Louis’ Robert Thomas. https://t.co/fX3mEQgEyU
— NHL Player Safety (@NHLPlayerSafety) September 23, 2017
In issuing the decision, the League said, “Wilson delivered a late, hard hit” on Thomas “well after the point where Thomas was eligible to be checked.” The League noted that Wilson’s hit came over a full second after Thomas lost the puck. The League said a suspension was warranted because of the “predatory nature and force of the hit,” noting that Wilson altered the course of his skating to make the hit.
The 2017-2018 NHL Rule Book addresses interference penalties in Rule 56. It reads, in part, that “Moving laterally and without establishing body position, then making contact with the non-puck carrier is not permitted and will be penalized as interference.” The rule goes on to say, “the player deemed in possession of the puck may be checked legally, provided the check is rendered immediately following his loss of possession.”
Prior to today’s announcement, Wilson had never been suspended during his NHL career, though he was fined in 2016 following a knee-on-knee hit with Pittsburgh Penguins’ forward Conor Sheary in Game 1 of the second round playoff series.
Wilson, 23, was scheduled to dress for Washington’s preseason game at home against the Carolina Hurricanes this evening, but the Caps announced before the league’s ruling that Brett Connolly will take his place in the lineup. The Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NHL and the NHLPA bars a player from playing while his hearing is pending.
During Saturday’s morning skate at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex, Capitals Coach Barry Trotz said he was “a little bit” surprised by the league holding a hearing, but he acknowledged that he had only seen the replay briefly. “I didn’t think much of it, but obviously [the NHL] did, and they watch that a lot more closely than we do, so I was a little surprised,” he said. Trotz went on to express confidence in the league decision-making process, saying “Whatever decision that they have we’ll deal with it. They do a good job.”
Wilson led the Capitals in penalty minutes in the past four seasons with 133 last season, 163 in 2015-16, 172 in 2014-15, and 151 in 2013-14. He finished last season tying his career high in goals (7) and finished four points shy of his career high (19).
The ruling was the first to be issued by the new Department of Player Safety head George Parros, a former NHL forward. Parros, who played in 474 games over 9 seasons, was a surprising choice to many NHL observers. During his career, Parros amassed 1,092 penalty minutes and just 36 points. While he was known as a tough enforcer, he never faced supplemental discipline. When he was appointed by the league earlier this month, Parros said, “I played the game as physically as anybody, and I never once was fined or suspended,” Parros said. “I know where that line is. I know how to protect my guys or intimidate, but not injure and hurt. And that’s what we’re looking for.”
Rule 28.2 addresses suspensions during pre-season and exhibition games and states,”Whenever suspensions are imposed as a result of infractions occurring during pre-season and exhibition games, the Commissioner shall exercise his discretion in scheduling the suspensions to ensure that no team shall be short more players in any regular League game than it would have been had the infractions occurred in regular League games.”
Article 18 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NHL and the NHLPA addresses Supplementary Discipline. Article 18.2 outlines factors that the League can consider in determining whether any supplementary discipline for on-ice conduct is called for and the severity of the discipline that can be handed out:
- (a) The type of conduct involved: conduct in violation of League Playing Rules, and whether the conduct is intentional or reckless, and involves the use of excessive and unnecessary force. Players are responsible for the consequences of their actions.
- (b) Injury to the opposing Player(s) involved in the incident.
- (c) The status of the offender and, specifically, whether the Player has a history of being subject to Supplementary Discipline for On-Ice Conduct. Players who repeatedly violate League Playing Rules will be more severely punished for each new violation.
- (d) The situation of the game in which the incident occurred, for example: late in the game, lopsided score, prior events in the game.
- (e) Such other factors as may be appropriate in the circumstances.”
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