After an in-person appeal in New York that took more than seven hours, Tom Wilson has not received any reduction of his 20-game suspension. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, who heard the appeal, released his decision today to reject the appeal and uphold the full suspension. Wilson now has the option to appeal to a neutral arbitrator, as Austin Watson did for a domestic violence suspension earlier this year.
Coincidentally, tonight will also mark the debut for St. Louis Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist, who was the target of the hit that earned Wilson the suspension. It was the fourth suspension in the last 105 games for Wilson, an “unprecedented frequency of suspensions in the history of the Department of Player Safety.” The Washington Capitals forward will forfeit more than $1.2MM in salary for the ban, which at this point is the major thing he is fighting for. Having already missed eight, Wilson will likely be out for nearly 20 games by the time any decision is made by a neutral arbitrator. He currently has seven days to file that appeal.
In the decision, which is 31 pages in length, Bettman notes that the NHLPA suggested a suspension of eight games was warranted if they were to accept the fact that he violated Rule 48 for checks to the head—which they did not, given the basis of the appeal. In fact, much of the weight of the decision surrounds the claim that Wilson did not violate Rule 48, as Sundqvist’s head was not the “main point of contact.” This, as well as the argument that Wilson’s history with the Department of Player Safety was unfairly characterized, was summarily dismissed by the commissioner. His decision finishes with a clear statement to Wilson:
One true and fundamental test of effective discipline is whether the discipline is of sufficient strength and impact that it has the effect of deterring the Player being disciplined from repeating the same or similar conduct in the future. By this standard, the supplementary discipline previously assessed to Mr. Wilson prior to this incident has clearly been ineffective in deterring his dangerously reckless play.
I hope that this decision will serve as an appropriate “wake-up call” to Mr. Wilson, causing him to reevaluate and make positive changes to his game.