A Capitals player was fined just $5,000 for punching an opponent then body-slamming another, and the NHL world is in an uproar

A Capitals player was fined just $5,000 for punching an opponent then body-slamming another, and the NHL world is in an uproar
Tom Wilson.Bruce Bennett/Pool Photo /AP Images
  • Capitals forward Tom Wilson punched a Rangers player in the back of the head and body-slammed another.
  • But the NHL only fined Wilson $5,000, despite his history of dirty hits.
  • The Rangers called for the NHL's head of player safety to be fired.

Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson has caused an uproar in the NHL over two violent acts against New York Rangers players.

During the Capitals' 6-3 win over the Rangers on Monday, a second-period pile-up formed in front of the Capitals' goal. While in it, Wilson punched Rangers forward Pavel Buchnevich in the back of the head while Buchnevich was down on the ice.

In the scrum that followed, Wilson threw Rangers forward Artemi Panarin to the ice after Panarin jumped on Wilson's back to pull him off of a teammate. Panarin left the game with a leg injury and didn't return. He will miss the remaining three games of the season.

Wilson was given two minor roughing penalties and a 10-minute misconduct penalty, but he returned in the third period.

After the NHL reviewed the incident, the league fined Wilson $5,000, a penalty the Rangers saw as far too paltry. Others in the hockey world also saw it as an insufficient punishment for one of the league's most polarizing players.


The NHL world is in an uproar

After Monday's game, Rangers head coach David Quinn said Wilson had crossed a line.

"We all saw it. There are lines that can't be crossed in this game," Quinn said. "There's just zero respect for the game in general. You got one of the star players in this league now that could have gotten seriously, seriously hurt in that incident."

Then on Tuesday, the Rangers issued a statement calling for the firing of George Parros, the NHL's head of player safety.

"The New York Rangers are extremely disappointed that Capitals forward Tom Wilson was not suspended for his horrifying act of violence last night at Madison Square Garden," the statement said. "Wilson is a repeat offender with a long history of these type of acts and we find it shocking that the NHL and their Department of Player Safety failed to take the appropriate action and suspend him indefinitely."

The statement said Wilson's low fine was "a dereliction of duty" on Parros' part, which showed he is "unfit to continue in his current role."


An NHL team executive told The Athletic's Scott Burnside that he was surprised the NHL didn't come down harder.

"I thought this was an opportunity for the league to make some sort of statement. They're lucky that Panarin didn't get seriously hurt there," the executive said.

Wilson has a violent history

The uproar against Wilson is, in part, the product of his long history of violent behavior on the ice. He's been suspended five times in his career, three of them for illegal hits to the head.

In March, Wilson was suspended seven games for hitting the Boston Bruins' Brandon Carlo on the head.

After the incident, Wilson acknowledged that he needed to be better and said he'd apologized to Carlo.


"At the end of the day, it can't happen," Wilson said. "I can't be missing seven games. I can't be missing one game. I've got to be in the lineup."

In 2018, Wilson was suspended for 20 games for an illegal head check on the St. Louis Blues' Oskar Sundqvist.

Some believe Wilson will one day go too far - if he hasn't already

Former NHL player Matt Cooke, who served multiple suspensions during his career and had a reputation for questionable hits, told The Athletic's Rob Rossi that he thinks Wilson's behavior on Monday crossed a line.

"[Wilson] looked like a toddler having a fit with this last one," Cooke told Rossi. "To me, what he did has nothing to do with hockey. This becomes about respect for your opponents and the ability to control emotions within a scenario."

Cooke added: "To me, this isn't looking a guy in the face and standing up for yourself. This is somewhat predatory."


A Capitals player was fined just $5,000 for punching an opponent then body-slamming another, and the NHL world is in an uproar
Tom Wilson.Nick Wass/AP Images

A former player told Burnside that Wilson is "going to hurt someone, and the league knows it."

However, the NHL's department of player safety can't change its standards of punishment to account for Wilson's past and reputation.

Still, as ESPN's Greg Wyshynski wrote, Wilson is likely to face a severe punishment eventually if he continues on his current path.

"He's going to really cross the line again at some point, and the department of player safety is going to justifiably drop the hammer on him," Wyshynski wrote. "Believe me: They want to. They're as sick of this circus act as much as you are."