For kneeing Penguins forward Connor Sheary, Tom Wilson of the Washington Capitals received a very specific fine of $2,403.67, the maximum fine allowable under the CBA. To me, NHL Player Safety is so random with everything else it decides I’m surprised the maximum fine isn’t listed as “just give us whatever you have in your pocket right now. 20.00, 1,500.00. It doesn’t matter. At least we can say we did something.”
Wilson defended his knee by saying “You’re finishing checks hard and up until this one, I’ve been completely off the books. I’ve hit very hard, but very legal, so I’m not going to change the way I play. I’ve got to trust my instincts. That’s just the real unfortunate kind of circumstance; I don’t even intend to really hit him there, I’m trying to kind of bluff hit him and our legs get tangled up. I had no intention of going knee on knee. You ask any player, if I’m going in there planning to go knee-on-knee, there’s a 50-50 chance it’s gonna be my knee that blows up.”
His explanation of a bluff hit is hard to believe because if you’re not going to hit someone, you usually just shrug your arms and shoulders at a guy. Instead he intentionally changed his path of travel and went out of his way to line himself up with Sheary, and made no attempt to get out of the way when it was clear Sheary wasn’t budging.
Even if he’s telling the truth and he didn’t intend to go knee on knee, with the action of changing his positioning he intentionally caused a dangerous collision with an ineligible player who was stationary, vulnerable, and not in a position to defend himself.
Sheary didn’t get hurt, and there was no penalty called on the play. I’ll say it again though: injury should have nothing to do with suspension because the suspension should be for intent and/or what type of action Player Safety wants eliminated from the game. Also, whether a penalty was called or not should have nothing to do with suspension because Player Safety shouldn’t be in the business of handing out appropriate punishment for a crime. That’s that the rule book is for. Player Safety should be in the business of handing out appropriate punishment to discourage repeat offenses based on what they want to eliminate from the game the most.
A 2,500 fine is sending the message that intentionally causing a dangerous collision is not that big a deal as long as no damage is done, so take as many tries as you please until you really hurt someone.