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Last night, there was an ugly brawl between the New York Rangers and the Washington Capitals. At the centre of it all was Tom Wilson, a player that can definitely play hockey, but that can also act like a hot head and cross the line into what’s unacceptable. Last night, he crossed that line so far that the line was a dot to him.
First, he took down Pavel Buchnevich and once he had him laying on the ice defenceless, he threw a couple of punches at his head. The Rangers, seeing what was happening came to their teammates’ help, leading the charge was severely undersized winger Artemi Panarin who jumped on Wilson’s back to try to divert his attention. He succeeded but as a result, Wilson ended up taking him down as well pulling him by the hair and slamming his head on the ice.
Then he has a screaming match with the Rangers’ bench and got a 10 minute misconduct. At that stage, the hockey world took notice and, aside from Caps’ fans, unanimously condemned his action. This morning though, the NHL Player Safety issued his “punishment” a fine in the amount of $5000, the maximum amount allowed as they say so proudly. According to the league, Parros is following the rule book and that is what the rule book called for.
Understandably, the Rangers were livid and hours later, they released the following statement:
"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. 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. Wilson’s dangerous and reckless actions caused an injury to Artemi Panarin that will prevent him from playing again this season. We view this as a dereliction of duty by NHL Head of Player Safety, Georges Parros, and believe he is unfit to continue in his current role."
Would firing Parros really change anything? No, it wouldn’t. The problem goes much deeper than this and must be address conclusively and permanently. Hits to the head have become the number one enemy in our game today and they need to be treated as such. For that to happen though, the rule book needs to be redrafted so that when someone crosses the line, the punishment fits the crime.
A couple of months ago, I read the book “Game Change” by Ken Dryden, if you are not familiar with the book, it’s essentially about the life and times of Steve Montador and how playing the role of enforcer in the NHL lead to him suffering numerous brain issues and essentially, an early death. In the volume, Dryden advocates that the game has evolved so much and that we know the risk so much better that it’s time to re-write the rule book to take all this into account.
Why not do that? Why not bring in Dryden, a lawyer by trade, and ask him to write a first draft of that could be the new rules? Clearly he cares about the matter and he has ideas about how it should be done. It’s high time the owners and general manager start discussing this. After all, they are in this for the money and if their best players get injured, the quality of the sport will drop and eventually, they will lose viewers, fans and the sport will become less profitable.