Gary Bettman upholds Tom Wilson’s 20-game suspension for illegal check

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has upheld the 20-game suspension of Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson for an illegal check to the head of St. Louis Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist during a Sept. 30 pre-season game.

The physical right-winger, who plays on Washington’s top line with captain Alex Ovechkin, drew a 10-minute penalty for the hit before being handed the lengthy ban hours before the Capitals opened their Stanley Cup title defence on Oct. 3 against Boston.

The NHL Players’ Association launched an appeal two days later.

Wilson will forfeit $1.26-million US in salary if the appeal is rejected. 

Bettman heard Wilson’s appeal of the original decision at a hearing in New York on Oct. 18, and said in Thursday’s decision that the evidence in the case supports a significant ban.

“Mr. Wilson’s recent play has threatened the safety and well-being of opposing players on too many occasions, despite prior discipline being assessed and despite the considerable efforts of the Department of Player Safety to counsel Mr. Wilson on how to play within the rules,” Bettman concluded in his ruling.

“I hope that this decision will serve as a ‘wake-up call’ to Mr. Wilson, causing him to re-evaluate and make positive changes to his game,” Bettman added.