While there are no “in-person” hearings due to COVID-19, Wilson was technically offered one on Saturday. While phone hearings typically indicate that the NHL is considering a suspension of five games or less, an “in person” hearing means it’s considering one of a greater length.
Wilson is the NHL’s player safety lightning rod. From September 2017 to October 2018, he was suspended four times for illegal hits in a 105-game span, culminating in a 20-game suspension for a hit to the head of St. Louis forward Oskar Sundqvist that was eventually reduced to 14 games by an arbitrator.
With 90 seconds left in the first period, Wilson delivered a high hit to Carlo in the corner behind the Boston net. Carlo’s head slammed against the glass, and he fell to the ice and remained there for several minutes. The Bruins said he was taken from the arena to a Boston hospital in an ambulance.
“Clearly looked to me like he got him right in the head. A defenseless player, a predatory hit from a player that’s done that before,” Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said of Wilson. “I don’t understand why there wasn’t a penalty called on the ice. They huddled up, but I did not get an explanation why.”
The penalty will apparently come from the department of player safety instead.
Their first test was whether the hit satisfied the criteria for an illegal hit to the head. That wasn’t a solid case, given that Carlo’s head may not have been the primary point of contact on the hit and that Wilson appeared to attempt a full body check on the play.
The next test was whether this was an illegal hit for boarding. The department of player safety announced on Saturday that the hearing would be for violation of Rule 41 — boarding. According to the criteria for that rule, Wilson’s hit caused Carlo to “impact the boards violently” and that Carlo was “in a defenseless position” that should have resulted in Wilson minimizing contact.
If Wilson is suspended, the length of that ban will be hotly debated. Technically, Wilson is not a “repeat offender” under the department’s rules, having gone more than 18 months without an offense worthy of suspension. But that’s only used “to determine the amount of salary forfeited” during a suspension, according to the NHL. Wilson’s suspension history can absolutely be taken into account when determining the length of his next ban, but so can the fact that his last suspension was in October 2018.
“I think Tom has figured out how to play the game and stay off our radar. I hope it stays that way,” George Parros, the head of the department of player safety, told ESPN in March 2019. “We’ve seen clips of him delivering good clean hits and laying off hits that might have gotten him in trouble before.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.