Thursday, May 03, 2018
Tom Wilson suspension right call; now make every head hit a penalty
By Kevin Allen
May 2, 2018
The best evidence that the NHL’s Department of Player Safety made the right call in suspending Tom Wilson three games is that few people are pleased with the decision.
Given the spark and fire that Wilson provides the Washington Capitals, this is a significant suspension. He is gone for the key games of this series.
But some fans, particularly those in Pittsburgh, wanted the book thrown at the rugged Washington forward for his high hit that broke Zach Aston-Reese’s jaw. At a minimum, Penguins fans wanted Wilson gone for the rest of the Eastern Conference semifinal.
With this suspension, Wilson can be back for Game 7. Can you imagine how fired up the Washington fans will be if Wilson comes back for Game 7?
Even some neutral fans believed the suspension should be five games or more. The other unhappy folks are those who believe Wilson’s hit was a legal check. Let’s not forget that officials on the ice saw it that way. Wilson was not penalized. Some former NHL players have also tweeted they thought the hit was fine.
We all watch the same videos in these situations, and none of us agrees on what we saw happen or what the league’s reaction should be.
Maybe that’s part of the problem.
The illegal check to the head rule, as it is written now, provides a gray area in which heavy hitters like Wilson can operate.
On the ice, the officials believed his hit was clean because Aston-Reese saw Wilson coming. He had time to prepare for the blow, and Wilson made contact with Aston-Reese’s shoulder before driving upward into his chin.
The NHL had to dig deeper to suspend Wilson on the technicalities of Rule 48. He was suspended for changing his angle of attack to make it a more dangerous hit, and then for driving upward to make the head the main point of contact. It was pointed out, in the Player Safety explanation video, that Wilson could have delivered a clean hit if he had continued on his initial path and drove through Aston-Reese’s core.
Maybe the Wilson situation is another reminder that it is time to remove the gray area from head shots. Maybe it’s to change the rule to read that if a player makes contact with the head, intended or not, it is a minor penalty. If the referee deems it intentional or reckless, it is a major penalty and a game misconduct. That would reduce the number of head shots.
No gray area. Just like we do with stick fouls. You are responsible for your stick. If it cuts someone, you are in the penalty box. Under a zero-tolerance head shot rule, you would be responsible for making sure you don’t make contact with the head.
Some argue it would eliminate hitting from the game. Don’t believe that. These are incredible athletes who always find ways to adjust. They would find ways to be physical.
If that were the standard, would Wilson have run over Aston-Reese by driving into his chest? We will never know for sure.
But we do know is we want to protect players’ brains. And we don’t want players checked in the face hard enough to break their jaw.
More: Capitals' Tom Wilson suspended three games
More: Penguins furious Tom Wilson was laughing after hit
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