On Thursday, Tom Wilson appealed his 20-game suspension to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. So what happens now?
Wilson was suspended 20-games for a hit he delivered to St. Louis Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist in the preseason. The NHLPA filed an appeal on Wilson’s behalf which led to his hearing on Thursday.
There is no specific timeline on when Bettman will issue a decision so for now, Wilson will have to wait.
When a decision is reached, he will have two options of how to proceed. First, he can accept the commissioner’s decision and serve whatever suspension remains. As of Thursday, he has currently served six games out of the original 20-game suspension.
Wilson also has the option of a second appeal. For suspensions of six games or more, a player can file a subsequent appeal to a neutral arbitrator. The arbitrator is given authority to issue a ruling based on whether the league’s finding of a violation of the rules and the penalty imposed were both supported by substantial evidence, meaning both the hit itself and the length of suspension will be reviewed.
This can be a lengthy process.
The most recent example of a player appealing to a neutral arbitrator is Nashville’s Austin Watson. He was suspended 27 games by the NHL on Sept. 12 for domestic assault. On Oct. 12 an arbitrator reduced the suspension to 18 games.
Given the serious nature of domestic assault, it should be noted that Wilson and Watson’s respective transgressions are in no way comparable. This example is used merely to illustrate how long the process can take.
Another example is that of Dennis Wideman who was suspended 20 games in 2016 for hitting and injuring a referee. His suspension was ultimately reduced to 10 games by an arbitrator, but by that time he had already served 19 games.
Wilson will remain suspended throughout the appeals process.
Obviously he would like to return to the ice as quickly as possible, but even if his appeal drags out and Wilson is forced to sit for most or all of those 20 games, he still can recoup some of the money he will forfeit from this suspension (over $1.2 million) which will make the arbitrator’s decision still relevant for him personally.
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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