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NHL continues to enable Tom Wilson's dangerous antics with another lazy ruling

Justin Cuthbert
·4-min read

As Tom Wilson senselessly flexed in his shoulder pads from the penalty box, suggesting to David Quinn, the New York Rangers, and the NHL as a whole that he was untouchable, it seems he wasn't wrong.

The NHL has issued the laughably low maximum allowable fine to the Washington Capitals forward, ruling that the most dangerous player with the most egregious rap sheet in the entire league was well within his right, most of the time, during a melee Monday night, which will be remembered for his blatant disregard for the head health of Pavel Buchnevich and Artemi Panarin, and his willingness to use the ice as a weapon.

That's correct: the extent of the most habitual repeat offender's punishment for landing a punch to the back of the head of an opponent laying face-first on the ice and spiking a superstar player on the side of his helmet-less head in a matter of seconds before throwing him down a second time, was a $5,000 dollar fine.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 03: Tom Wilson #43 of the Washington Capitals yells at the New York Rangers bench after taking a second period penalty at Madison Square Garden on May 03, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Tom Wilson will no-doubt terrorize again after the NHL's latest lazy ruling. (Getty)

That cup of coffee might not even be enough to discourage the Capitals' social media manager, let alone Wilson.

Now the player that hasn't learned, mostly because he hasn't been forced to, even after being suspended for seven games this season already, can continue putting opponents' health in danger as soon as, well, Wednesday night, coincidentally versus the Rangers.

Here's the incident in full:

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For George Parros and the Department of Player Safety, it's an egregious decision — even for them. First, they make no mention of the most dangerous aspect of the incident, which is judo-style hip toss (which might have been assisted by the grabbing of hair) that results in one of the marquee attractions in the league (not that it matters, really) being lifted off the ice and having his head slammed into a surface considered unforgiving even with a helmet strapped on tightly. 

Whether it involved a fist full of hair or not, Wilson had both hands at or around Panarin's head, and managed a grip strong enough to treat Panarin's head like a medicine ball being walloped toward the ground inside the Capitals' strength and conditioning room.

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The wrestling move was damaging — or, concussive — enough to likely end Panarin's season, according to multiple reports, but in the eyes of DoPS was only an unfortunate outcome associated with two players involved in a lively skirmish — something that happens on most nights.

That argument has some credence, but here's where it falls short: the normal, not-trying-to-inflict-permanent-damage response when clearly inflicting harm is to cut the aggression immediately. But Wilson eschews that normal, non-psychotic response, continuing to see the most intense shade of red, looking to land punches before throwing Panarin's head back down toward the ice after he scrambled back to his feet in self defence.  

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What's most incredible about the NHL's decision is that everything involving Panarin was ignored — either because it was Panarin that initiated the conflict between the two, or because it was just deemed to be beneath the threshold of supplementary discipline.

Instead, the $5,000 fine was levied exclusively for the punch landed on the back of the head of Buchnevich, who Wilson pressed prone into the ice before delivering the blow when he was most vulnerable. 

While it sounds ridiculous to assign a price tag on a potentially concussive shot, the incident with Buchnevich might have been worth the $5,000 fine, even for a repeat offender like Wilson.

But in a case like this, the total damage, or the sum of Wilson's aggression, or the number of potentially-concussive blows, needed to be taken into account, and so too should his embarrassing reaction from the penalty box.

Instead, the NHL did Wilson a serious favour, it seems, scrubbing all the important context from the equation and neglecting clear intent to injure, therefore continuing to enable the most dangerous player in the game.

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