Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson has never been suspended. That may soon change.
The NHL’s Department of Player Safety is undoubtedly reviewing Wilson’s hit on New Jersey Devils defenseman John Moore. Early in Saturday’s New Year’s Eve game, the Caps winger delivered a solid bodycheck right through the numbers of the New Jersey blueliner.
The initial contact appeared to be hip-on-hip, with Wilson finishing the check through Moore’s back. The resulting motion caused Moore’s head to whip into the glass. Moore remained motionless on the ice for a few moments before being stretchered off. He was taken to a local hospital for evaluation.
No penalty was called on the play by referees Marc Joannette and Justin St. Pierre. The duo did make up for it, though, handing out 50 penalty minutes over the remainder of the game. Despite all the time in the penalty boxes, neither team was able to convert on the power play, going a combined 0-for-13.
Though Wilson has been fined before, he has never been suspended by Player Safety.
For reference, here’s the rulebook definition of boarding (Rule 41):
A boarding penalty shall be imposed on any player who checks or pushes a defenseless opponent in such a manner that causes the opponent to hit or impact the boards violently or dangerously. The severity of the penalty, based upon the impact with the boards, shall be at the discretion of the Referee.
There is an enormous amount of judgment involved in the application of this rule by the Referees. The onus is on the player applying the check to ensure his opponent is not in a defenseless position and if so, he must avoid or minimize contact. However, in determining whether such contact could have been avoided, the circumstances of the check, including whether the opponent put himself in a vulnerable position immediately prior to or simultaneously with the check or whether the check was unavoidable can be considered. This balance must be considered by the Referees when applying this rule.
And checking from behind (Rule 43):
A check from behind is a check delivered on a player who is not aware of the impending hit, therefore unable to protect or defend himself, and contact is made on the back part of the body. When a player intentionally turns his body to create contact with his back, no penalty shall be assessed.