The NHL Could Have Avoided All of This

There are many things the hockey world should be celebrating and talking about today, but thanks to the NHL’s decision to not suspend Tom Wilson this week, the focus instead takes place on what happened at Madison Square Garden last night.
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No doubt you heard about what went down in the NHL last night. If you didn’t, let us get you up to speed:

* In his first game back with the Washington Capitals after the death of his father at the age of 52 from Alzheimer’s disease, T.J. Oshie scored a hat trick in his team’s 4-2 win over the New York Rangers. After scoring the third goal into an empty net, Oshie went back to the bench and was clearly overcome with emotion by the response of his teammates. “I felt like he needed a hug,” teammate Nicklas Backstrom said after the game. “I think I told him, ‘You’re the strongest person I know.’ ” Added teammate Nic Dowd: “We’re trying to be there for him and take care of him and he ends up taking care of us.” Beautiful moment.

* With an assist on Sean Walker’s empty-net goal against Arizona, future Hall of Famer Anze Kopitar recorded his 1,000th career point. It was a triumph of all that is good in the game. Kopitar is a quiet, respected and dedicated leader, one of only three players from Slovenia who has ever played an NHL game, who has devoted his life toward playing the game the right way and acting the right way off it. “I’m honored to be able to coach him,” said Los Angeles Kings coach Todd McLellan. “It’s a pleasure to have that type of person in your locker room on a daily basis…his passion and energy for the game is contagious.”

* With his 26-save performance in a 3-2 Vegas win over Minnesota, Marc-Andre Fleury registered his 490th victory to pass Roberto Luongo for third all-time on the league’s win list. It could not have happened to a more decent person than the three-time Stanley Cup winner and future Hall of Famer. “I didn’t think I would reach Roberto,” Fleury said after the game. “But I’m honored to play enough and play on such a great team to allow me to catch him.” Pure class.

These, of course, should be the things we’re celebrating and talking about today. But thanks to the NHL’s decision to not suspend Tom Wilson for his heinous act of violence Monday night, all anyone inside and outside the hockey world is discussing is the gong show that occurred on the ice at Madison Square Garden last night and the $250,000 fine the league levied on the Rangers for speaking out against NHL director of player safety George Parros. We’re talking about whether or not Pavel Buchnevich, the subject of Wilson’s attack, should be suspended for his crosscheck in the same game.

And none of it, not one bit of it, would have happened had the NHL saw fit to suspend Wilson rather than fine him for what amounted to 0.097 percent of his annual average salary. Wilson was fined only for his actions against Buchnevich and received nothing for ripping Artemi Panarin’s helmet off and body-slamming him to the ice, an action that has knocked one of the NHL’s most talented and charismatic players out of the lineup for the rest of the regular season.

After the action and the melee that ensued, Wilson was seen laughing and flexing his muscles from the penalty box. And shortly after the dust had settled, the Capitals themselves sent out a tweet from their official account that was so out of line it later had to be taken down. The Rangers responded by calling for Parros to be removed from the job, saying he was guilty of “a dereliction of duty.” We get it that the Wilson fine was the maximum the NHL could give Wilson, and that’s a discussion for another day that involves a players’ association that protects the perpetrators of acts of violence against its own members. But the optics of fining the Rangers 50 times what they fined Wilson are terrible and show without dispute that the league would rather the Rangers respond to incident by starting three fights off the opening faceoff of the game than publicly taking it to task for what it believed was an egregious decision.

And that says everything about how those who hold the levers of power in the NHL think. Meanwhile, the same day of the original Wilson incident, MLB suspended Cincinnati Reds pitcher Amir Garrett seven games for taunting an opponent and inciting a bench-clearing incident in which not a single punch was thrown. That’s how you deal with miscreant behavior. The NHL could have done that. It could have avoided all of this if it had simply done the right thing and suspended Tom Wilson.

Carry on, then…

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