Rangers call NHL's senior VP of player safety 'unfit' for role after Tom Wilson fine

Washington's Tom Wilson was fined but not suspended for his actions during a post-whistle scrum in New York, an outcome the Capitals are ready to move on from and the Rangers feel isn't sufficient punishment for one of hockey's most polarizing players.

Capitals forward avoids suspension following physical actions during post-whistle scrum

Capitals agitator Tom Wilson, left, was fined $5,000 US Tuesday for roughing up Rangers forwards Artemi Panarin, pictured, and Pavel Buchnevic during Monday's game at Madison Square Garden in New York. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Washington's Tom Wilson was fined but not suspended for his actions during a post-whistle scrum in New York, an outcome the Capitals are ready to move on from and the Rangers feel isn't sufficient punishment for one of hockey's most polarizing players.

The NHL fined Wilson $5,000 US Tuesday for roughing Rangers forward Pavel Buchnevich during the second period of a game Monday night at Madison Square Garden in New York. The fine is the maximum allowable for the incident under the collective bargaining agreement, and Wilson was not disciplined for throwing Artemi Panarin to the ice moments later.

"I just think it's a joke, to be honest with you," New York's Ryan Strome said. "I know it's not my responsibility to make decisions, but I just can't believe that. I think it sends a bad message, in my opinion. I think everyone pretty much agrees with that. And I just think that the league missed one here bigtime."

The team's statement was even stronger, calling Wilson's behaviour a "horrifying act of violence" and targeting NHL senior vice-president of player safety George Parros for his inaction.

"Wilson is a repeat offender with a long history of these type of acts and we find it shocking that the NHL and their Department of Player Safety failed to take the appropriate action and suspend him indefinitely," the Rangers said.

"Wilson's dangerous and reckless actions caused an injury to Artemi Panarin that will prevent him from playing again this season. We view this as a dereliction of duty by NHL Head of Player Safety, George Parros, and believe he is unfit to continue in his current role."

Wilson was given a double-minor penalty for roughing and a 10-minute misconduct. The fine represents 0.12 per cent of Wilson's $4.1 million salary for this season.

"It's the discipline that's sent down from the league, and Tom will pay it and we'll move on," said Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette, who after the game called it a physical play that "happens a lot."

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"It looked like they were jamming at the goalie and Tom punched him in the top of the shoulder area and then punched him somewhere on the backside as he's trying to get in there and pull him off and received the roughing penalty," Laviolette added. "After that, he had a couple guys jump on his back and there was a big scrum that went on and ensued from there."

Panarin was ruled out of the remainder of the game with what the team called a lower-body injury. Head coach David Quinn said Panarin would miss the final three games of the Rangers season and confirmed the injury came from the incident with Wilson, which won't cause the 27-year-old Capitals forward to miss any time.

"To me, anybody in hockey — certainly everybody in our organization — is very disappointed," Quinn said. "We certainly thought it warranted a suspension. We're just really disappointed. A line was crossed: Guy didn't have his helmet on, vulnerable, he got hurt. To me, it was an awful lot there to suspend him."

Added Rangers forward Mike Zibanejad: "I figure you should have some more respect for the game and for the players. I don't honestly know where to start. It's just horrible. Zero respect. I don't know why I'm surprised, but yeah, just horrible."

'Defenceless position'

This is Wilson's third fine in eight NHL seasons, and he has been suspended five times. The most recent suspension was seven games in March for boarding Boston's Brandon Carlo.

When suspending him for the hit on Carlo, the league's department of player safety called Wilson "a player with a substantial disciplinary record taking advantage of an opponent who is in a defenceless position and doing so with significant force." The same department found Wilson's actions against the Rangers not to be worthy of a suspension.

"He's big, he's strong and when he gets into scrums and he wrestles, [I told him], 'You've got to be careful' because, I think, with the attention on him, he gets looked at in a certain way," Laviolette said. "He has to play his game, he has to be hard to play against, he has to be physical, but in the same sense he's got to know that eyes are on him, as well."

Wilson had a clean record for the previous 2 1/2 years, dating to a 20-game suspension in the fall of 2018 for an illegal check to the head of St. Louis forward Oskar Sundqvist. That initially carried a $1.26 million fine, and it was reduced to 14 games by an independent arbitrator after appeal, though Wilson had already served 17 games.

The Capitals and Rangers play again Wednesday night. Quinn was noncommittal about calling up an enforcer for the game but said he knew how his team would respond.

"As players, you want the league to have your back in those situations, and I think a lot of guys in our dressing room just feel like they didn't," Strome said. "This is a non-hockey-related play. And he's a big, strong guy. I'm sure he'd answer the bell, but I just think in a situation that's not related to play, I think it's the league's responsibility — not necessarily guys policing it on the ice."

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