On Tuesday night, a rematch of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final was set in Las Vegas, Nevada. With T-Mobile Arena being the stage, everyone watching live and on television knew that sparks were going to fly. Almost immediately, big hits were thrown by both teams and tempers were already flaring. However, one late hit on Capitals forward Tom Wilson was the highlight and it has certainly caused a heated debate in the hockey universe.
To start dissecting this whole thing, we first need to go back to the fifteenth minute of the first period. Ryan Reaves carries the puck up the ice and into the neutral zone. Almost immediately rubbed off into the boards by Alex Ovechkin, Reaves skates back into the play where Tom Wilson is waiting.
Disposed and sent to the ice rather quickly, Wilson quickly gets back up to his feet and looks to go give Reaves a piece of his mind. His path blocked by the officials trying to keep control of this game, all that is really noticed is Reaves simply laughing in the face of Wilson.
Following that initial meeting between the two big men, it would only get more physical from there. Fast forwarding through some more physical play, the game found advanced towards the end of the second period and this was when the climax hit of the night occurred.
Skating into the zone with some speed, Wilson went into a small moving scrum for the puck and came out empty handed but continued in his path. At this point he was about four feet from Reaves and then there was contact. Most likely expecting Reaves to pass by the hit considering it was late, Wilson certainly did not have his guard up.
Reaves saw the opportunity and took it. Delivering a late hit, one watching the replay could also see Reaves’ elbow go way up into the head area of Wilson but it did not make contact. Regarding the actual contact, there was nothing dirty besides the fact that the hit itself was so beyond late it is kind of ridiculous to watch in slow motion.
Wilson then quickly hit the ground, helmet coming off, and it took Wilson a good while to get off the ice and into the locker room. Not returning to the game, Wilson ended up watching his team suffer a difficult 5-3 loss from the locker room. A heated hockey debate was upon us.
First of all, I want to make it very clear that I in no way condone what Ryan Reaves did. It was an extremely late hit. A very dangerous hit. And in no way should this play be tolerated in the NHL. Reaves should be suspended for at least four to five games and that suspension should send a message to other players who frequently think about sending a physical message in the way that Ryan Reaves did.
However, the interesting part of this issue is that Tom Wilson, whether you like him or not, is one of the dirtiest players of today’s NHL. If you feel that he brings a positive style of play to the game and you like the way he conducts himself, fine. If you can’t stand him and you think he is the scum of the earth, fine. If you’re somewhere in between, that’s also fine. The fact remains that Tom Wilson has delivered these hits to many players on many occasions and is no stranger to league discipline himself. And because of that, it is difficult to feel sorry for him.
Over Tom Wilson’s nearly six-season career, he has been suspended four times and fined once. Missing a total of 105 games through his suspensions, Wilson has been one of the most disciplined players since entering the league in 2013. Just this season, Wilson missed the first 20 games due to a very dirty headshot that gave St. Louis Blues player Oskar Sundqvist a concussion in the final game of the 2018 preseason. He has certainly put making friends in the backseat when it comes to his playing career.
Tom Wilson has delivered many incredibly dirty hits over his career that have injured the players receiving the hits in ways no one ever hopes to see in the NHL. He basically received a dose of his own medicine on Tuesday and I’m going to assume that it doesn’t feel too good.
You can be mad at the hit and feel that it is suspension worthy (which it is). You can hate Ryan Reaves just as much or even more than Tom Wilson and that’s fine. But in all of this, the bottom line is that Tom Wilson has done this to many other players and finally he finds himself on the receiving end. A rational mind can be rational about the hit and the discipline from the league that should follow but a rational mind shouldn’t be able to feel sorry for a player that is known for doing this on what seems like a regular basis.
Hopefully, Tom Wilson is back out on the ice as soon as possible and hopefully he will continue to play hard for his team. However, what most would hope is that after this play, he will reel in his physical play so that it is still a power to be reckoned with but at the same time remains safe for the players of the opposing team.