The announcement from the International Ice Hockey Federation that Capitals’ center Evgeny Kuznetsov had been suspended four years from international play lit a firestorm around the hockey world, with fans, analysts, and players reacting to the news, which Kuznetsov and the Capitals addressed in recent statements. Now, Kuznetsov’s current and former teammates, Tom Wilson and Brett Connolly, expressed support for Kuznetsov in a recent interview by Sportsnet, from BioSteel Sports Camp, where the two are currently doing offseason conditioning and training.
Wilson, often a linemate of Kuznetsov’s this past season iterated that he believes the former first-round draft pick will learn from his mistake, saying, “Hopefully he can get through it. It’s never something you like to see in the media, but I’m sure he’ll learn. He’ll grow as a person and a player. We’re focused on Capitals. Whatever happens with the international stuff, it’s none of our business. “I know he takes a lot of pride in playing for his country”.
Wilson also made it clear that whatever the National Hockey League decides after a pending in-person hearing with Kuznetsov, the team will stand behind him all the way, “We’re going to have his back…We don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s kind of a sticky situation, but I’m sure it’ll all be handled. If he’s in a Caps uniform Game 1 [of the regular season], he’ll play. If not, we’ll deal with it.” Wilson has not spoken to Kuznetsov since the suspension was announced.
Connolly, a teammate of Kuznetsov’s for three seasons before signing with the Florida Panthers this summer in free agency, also expressed support for his former teammate, saying, “He’s going to handle that in his own way. It’s definitely disappointing for him…He’ll deal with it. He’s a good person, a good family man. He’s got a little girl and they had another baby [son Fedor this past June]. He’ll get through it.”
Like Wilson, Connolly also expressed optimism that Kuznetsov will learn from his mistakes:
“That’s life: You make mistakes, and you own up to them. He owned up to it. He knows. I love Kuzy. He’s an amazing player and really fun to be around. He really helped me the last two years, and he’ll be fine.”
Kuznetsov is set to meet with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman sometime before training camp begins in September to discuss the incident.
By Michael Fleetwood
Link to interview HERE.
Wilson Video is here.