The NHL Department of Player Safety, for the first time in a while, did something unexpected — it lived up to its name. When the Washington Capitals raise their Stanley Cup Champions banner tonight, the first time that Capital One Arena has seen such an event, Tom Wilson will not be on the ice.
He will not be on the ice, in fact, for any of the first twenty games of the season.
The three minute, fifteen second explanation of the suspension issued by the Department of Player Safety covers their reasoning in detail, but it boils down to this — Wilson, a repeat offender per the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, delivered a high, forceful, and unnecessary hit, the main point of contact of which was Sundqvist’s head. Wilson could have finished the check without contact to Sundqvist’s head, and as a repeat offender whose last suspension (just sixteen games ago) was also for an illegal check to the head, Wilson’s punishment had to be more severe.
“On September 22nd, 2017, [Wilson] was suspended for a late, high hit on Robert Thomas. Just two preseason games later, Wilson was again suspended, this time for boarding Samuel Blais. Seven months later, Wilson was suspended for an illegal check to the head of Zach Aston-Reese. This hit on Sundqvist occured in only his sixteenth game since his last suspension, which was also for an illegal check to the head. In short, including preseason and postseason games played, this is Wilson’s fourth suspension in his last one hundred and five games, an unprecedented frequency of suspensions in the history of the Department of Player Safety.” — NHL Department of Player Safety
In addition to sitting out the first twenty games of the regular season, he will also forfeit around $1.26 million in salary, which will go to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund. That means that Wilson, whose base salary this year is only around $1.1 million, has essentially lost a year’s money off the monster contract he signed this summer.
Wilson is not only a repeat offender, but a recent repeat offender, and the Department of Player Safety sent a strong message to Wilson and players of his ilk that avoidable contact to the head on plays will no longer be tolerated, especially by repeat offenders, with this suspension. What remains to be seen, however, is whether twenty games is enough time for Wilson to learn his lesson.