Capitals right wing Tom Wilson avoided suspension by the NHL for a charging penalty he took against Philadelphia Flyers center Brayden Schenn in a game Tuesday night.
Wilson had a telephone hearing at noon on Thursday with Brendan Shanahan, the NHL’s senior vice president of player safety. Shanahan determined that Wilson’s actions, while a penalty, did not merit supplemental discipline by the league.
Wilson jumped off the Washington bench with 4:48 left in the second period and the game tied 2-2. He raced up ice into the Philadelphia zone and smashed into Schenn, who had turned his back at the last moment. Schenn went flying into the boards and the referees hit Wilson with the charging penalty. He earned another five-minute major for fighting after the Flyers took issue with the hit and a game misconduct. Philadelphia scored twice during the ensuing power play to take control of the game.
In a video released by Shanhan’s department on Thursday evening, he concludes, as on-ice officials did, that Wilson did not commit a boarding penalty because Schenn turned his back to avoid the contact and made the hit worse. As for the charging call, a video reviewed proved to Shanahan that Wilson stopped skating as he entered the offensive zone and only then made his strides toward Schenn.
“It’s our belief, and it was asserted by Wilson in today’s hearing, that the decision to hit Schenn was not made until Wilson was already in the offensive zone face-off circle,” Shanahan said on the video.
Caps coach Adam Oates was demonstrative in his support of Wilson following the game and doubled down on that when speaking with reporters after Thursday’s practice and immediately before the noon hearing.
“To me, Schenn saw [Wilson],” Oates said. “He had every opportunity to resist the hit. It’s not a dirty hit, it’s not a late hit. Nothing with the numbers, no elevation. The kid chose to try and spin out. Wrong choice. But to me it’s a total clean hit.”
Shanahan agreed. Wilson, a 19-year-old rookie, can play on Friday night in Raleigh against the Carolina Hurricanes. He has yet to miss a game this season.
“Sometimes we see bad hit and you just think like ‘Wow, it have to be suspension.’ But that hit was clean,” teammate Alex Ovechkin said. “Of course, he just outmuscle [Schenn]. Of course, nobody wants to get hurt. We respect each other. We still play for different teams, but we still hockey players. It’s a physical game, but if you’re not ready, you’re not ready.”
Schenn was in the lineup on Thursday night for a game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Washington general manager George McPhee, who also defended Wilson after Tuesday’s game, released a statement after the decision not to suspend him was made by Shanahan.
“We agree with the league’s position that it was a clean hit. There should not have been a penalty on the play. It was a punishing hit, not predatory or otherwise illegal. Under our current rules, punishing but clean hits are permitted. We are happy that Tom Wilson was vindicated and Brayden Schenn is not injured.”