NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has upheld the 20-game suspension to Tom Wilson stating that he hopes it serves as a "wake-up call" to the Caps' forward to change the way he plays.
In a 31-page ruling released Thursday, Bettman wrote:
One true and fundamental test of effective discipline is whether the discipline is of sufficient strength and impact that it has the effect of deterring the Player being disciplined from repeating the same or similar conduct in the future. By this standard, the supplementary discipline previously assessed to Mr. Wilson prior to this incident has clearly been ineffective in deterring his dangerously reckless play. Accordingly, I find that [head of the Department of Player Safety George Parros'] decision to impose a significant suspension of longer duration than in prior incidents, in this case, was readily supported by the evidence and might, in fact, be the only effective way to deter Mr. Wilson's future of "bad conduct." I hope that this decision will serve as an appropriate "wake-up call" to Mr. Wilson, causing him to reevaluate and make positive changes to his game.
Wilson has originally suspended 20 games by the Department of Players Safety earlier in October for a hit he delivered to St. Louis Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist in the preseason finale. He appealed that decision to the commissioner and his hearing took place Oc.t 18 in New York. The appeal lasted for over seven hours, but Bettman was ultimately not swayed.
Bettman was also troubled by the fact that the incident occurred about a month after Wilson met with Parros in August for a one-on-one meeting.
"Mr. Wilson's involvement in yet another illegal and dangerous head check so soon after his August meeting with Mr. Parros strongly suggests to me that Mr. Wilson is 'not getting the message,'" Bettman wrote.
In the end, a reduction always seemed unlikely. Eliminating hits to the head and head injuries has been a major focus for the league. In addition, the DoPS was extremely forceful in its suspension of Wilson due to the fact that this is his fourth suspension in 105 games.
Wilson can now accept the 20-game suspension or opt for a second appeal to a neutral arbitrator. Even if he does appeal, however, Bettman’s decision all but guarantees Wilson will serve most if not all of the suspension.
The second appeal can be a lengthy process and Wilson has already served eight games of the 20-game suspension. He will remain suspended through the second appeal and could ultimately see his suspension run out before a decision is reached. If the arbitrator does reduce the suspension, Wilson will recoup the money he lost for each game that his knocked off his suspension, making it not an insignificant appeal for Wilson personally even if it won’t help the team get its winger back sooner.
If Wilson does appeal, it will be the second appeal the arbitrator has heard this season. In October, the arbitrator reduced a 27-game suspension to Nashville Predators’ forward Austin Watson for domestic assault down to 18 games.
Should Wilson serve the full 20-game suspension, he will be eligible to return to play on Nov. 21 when the Caps host the Chicago Blackhawks.
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