On Friday, the NHLPA Executive Board authorized further negotiations with the NHL on a 24-team return to play format. Two teams, the Carolina Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning voted against the extended playoff format. Some NHL players have expressed their concerns and possible disadvantages for their teams regarding a postseason with 24 teams. Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson spoke to Sportsnet’s Ben Ennis & JD Bunkis on Tuesday morning discussing the challenge of staying prepared for potentially finishing the rest of the 2019-20 season, the new playoff format, and getting back on the ice.
He calls the mental preparation for a likely resume on the season the “toughest” and has had “ups and downs”. Wilson expressed how the pause is so different than a playoff exit that results in plenty of weeks of rest before preparing for the new season. “Mentally you know, you start getting back into it, and you know that hockey is going to come back in September, so this is very different.”
Wilson believes the Return to Play Committee’s goal was trying to determine the “best possible outcome”. “It’s almost impossible to get every single guy across the league on the same page,” he said. While some may not like the extended format, the 26-year-old forward reinforced how there is a “business component” in the mix.
“We’re in a unique, unprecedented situation right now, and people are just trying to figure out the best way to go about it, keep integrity, but have the right amount of games. There’s so much that’s been factored in…both the NHL and NHLPA have exhausted numerous hours.”
He’s “thankful” for the NHL and NHLPA “putting in the time and trying to come up with the best scenario.” “If we were in Carolina’s position, maybe we’d be arguing a little bit different…at the end of the day, the last 15 games of the regular season could have been any way possible too if there hadn’t been a stoppage.”
“You got to play the cards you’re dealt right now and make the best of it,” Wilson said.
The right-winger has not laced up his skates since March and has not had access to a private rink for some practice given health as the main priority. “If all goes to plan and we’re going to start playing, I got to look at getting back out on the ice here and work off some rust.”
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman will make an announcement on Tuesday at 4:30 PM ET regarding the Return to Play Plan for the 2019-20 season. It will air on NBCSN and NHL Network in the United States as well as Sportsnet and TVA Sports in Canada and will be streamed live on NHL.com and across NHL social platforms.
You can listen to Wilson’s full, 20-minute interview here:
By Della Young