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The NHL’s ultimate decision whether and for what duration to suspend Tom Wilson for twice body-slamming Artemi Panarin to the ice after the Washington recidivist went upside a prone and defenseless Pavel Buchnevich’s head with a sucker punch during a second-period incident at the Garden on Monday will not be a reflection on Wilson, but instead on the league, itself.
This was not only bush-league stuff from this notorious headhunter who has been suspended five times in his NHL career, it was frightening how close his initial body slam of Panarin, on which the Washington winger grabbed a chunk of hair to gain leverage, came to causing calamitous damage.
Had Panarin’s head, rather than shoulder, hit the ice full force, the NHL might be presiding over a death.
This is reckless stuff that is repeated over and over again and is enabled over and over again by the Washington organization. Just as Caps coach Peter Laviolette shrugged off Wilson’s blow that concussed Boston’s Brandon Carlo in early March that earned Wilson a seven-game suspension, the coach did it again after Monday’s match.
“I thought it was just a scrum,” Laviolette said after his team’s 6-3 victory in which Wilson, who received nothing more than a double minor for roughing and a 10-minute misconduct for his indiscretions, scored once. “Some physical play … it happens a lot.”
Funny how it happens a lot when Wilson, who preened in the penalty box, is involved. But it is not funny at all. It is a blight on the league.
This is stuff from the 1970s, stuff from the days of the Broad Street Bullies, stuff that no longer can be tolerated. This is stuff that merits as strong a rebuke as possible from Sixth Avenue.
Enough is enough. Wilson should be banned for the rest of the season and the playoffs, and he should have to apply for readmission to the league next season. A man with no hockey conscience has forfeited his right to play.
You’re up, commissioner.
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