NEW YORK – Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson’s 20-game suspension for an illegal check to an opponent’s head in a preseason game was upheld by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on Thursday.
In a 31-page decision announced a week after Wilson’s nearly 7½-hour appeal hearing, Bettman determined that the initial ruling by the Department of Player Safety on Oct. 3 “was supported by clear and convincing evidence.”
The NHL Players’ Association appealed on Wilson’s behalf, arguing that his hit did not break a rule and so there should have been no suspension at all — but that if there were to be one, 20 games was “excessive” and eight would have been more appropriate.
The right winger, who plays on the reigning Stanley Cup champions’ top line with Alex Ovechkin, can now appeal to a neutral arbitrator.
Wilson was ejected for his hit on St. Louis Blues center Oskar Sundqvist in the second period of the teams’ exhibition game on Sept. 30, causing a concussion, cuts to the face and a sprained right shoulder.
Wilson’s fourth ban in less than 13 months is costing him nearly a quarter of the 82-game regular season — only five NHL players have been suspended longer for on-ice play — and $1.26 million in salary.
The video released earlier this month to explain the punishment says: “Wilson delivers a high, forceful hit, which makes Sundqvist’s head the main point of contact on a hit where such head contact was avoidable and causes an injury.” It also admonishes him for taking “a poor angle of approach.”