On Thursday, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman upheld the 20-suspension that landed on Washington Capitals Tom Wilson. The Caps troublesome forward was issued the hefty suspension by the NHL’s department of player safety back on Oct. 3, three days after he was ejected from a pre-season contest for an illegal check to the head against St. Louis Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist.
Upon announcement of the suspension, the league also released a video explaining that Wilson delivered “a high, forceful hit, which makes Sundqvist’s head the main point of contact on a hit where such head contact was avoidable and causes an injury.” The NHL Players' Association launched an appeal two days later.
Bettman heard Wilson's appeal of the original decision at a hearing in New York on Oct. 18, and said in Thursday's decision that the evidence in the case supports a significant ban.
"Mr. Wilson's recent play has threatened the safety and well-being of opposing players on too many occasions, despite prior discipline being assessed and despite the considerable efforts of the Department of Player Safety to counsel Mr. Wilson on how to play within the rules," Bettman concluded in his ruling.
"I hope that this decision will serve as a 'wake-up call' to Mr. Wilson, causing him to re-evaluate and make positive changes to his game," Bettman added.
As it was expected, Wilson reacted to the commissioner's judgement on Friday as Sportsnet's John Shannon reveals that the gritty forward has decided to appeal the appeal.
"Source confirms the Caps forward will take his 20 game suspension that Bettman held up to a third party arbitrator."
Wilson has so far missed eight contests and is eligible to make his season debut Nov. 21 against the Chicago Blackhawks, unless a partial arbitrator overturns Bettman's latest decision. Wilson was granted “non-roster player” status by the NHL, which allowed the Capitals to make roster moves without worrying about Wilson using up one of 23 roster spots during his suspension.
In July, the 24-year-old agreed to a six-year, $31-million contract to stay in Washington. He is expected to forfeit approximately $1.26 million in salary for his infraction — money that will go towards the players’ emergency fund.
After being placed on injured reserve with an upper-body injury, Sundqvist suited up for his first game last night against the Columbus Blue Jackets, but also saw limited action, logging just 8:33 of ice time.
Many wonder if a third arbitrator will be able to look past Wilson's reputation. The forward has had three previous infractions occurring in the past 13 months — something the league called “an unprecedented frequency of suspensions in the history of the department of player safety.”