By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Tom Wilson is no friend to the Boston Bruins. His hit to the head of Brandon Carlo in early March was wholly unnecessary. It left the B’s defenseman out for almost a month due to a concussion, it resulted in a seven-game suspension for Wilson, and it elevated the level of real-life hatred in the Bruins-Capitals matchups that have followed.READ MORE: Matthew Slater On Tom Brady: 'That's The Greatest Player In The History Of Football'
That level of animosity, though, pales in comparison to what the organization and the fan base held for Matt Cooke in the earlier part of the last decade.
Cooke of course entered Bruins fans’ radars in March of 2010, when he blindsided Marc Savard with an elbow to the side of the head. The hit essentially ended Savard’s career (he made two comebacks, but his career officially ended after sustaining more damage to his brain after taking a routine hit from Matt Hunwick in January 2011).
Cooke was suspended multiple times during his career, but he faced no discipline for his hit on Savard — other than having to fight Shawn Thornton.
Given his lengthy history as a habitual line-stepper, you might think that Cooke would excuse Wilson’s latest antics, which caused quite a stir in the hockey world. Yet that’s not the case at all.
“[Wilson] looked like a toddler having a fit with this last one,” Cooke told The Athletic’s Rob Rossi. “To me, what he did has nothing to do with hockey. This becomes about respect for your opponents and the ability to control emotions within a scenario. This last instance sheds a negative light on Tom Wilson that actually has nothing to do with the game. And I think that’s what a lot of people have the biggest problem with about this last one.”
The latest instance that Cooke’s referring to came Monday night, when Wilson drove the head of Pavel Buchnevich into the ice before grabbing Artemi Panarin by the hair and slamming the helmet-less player toward the ice. Panarin is now out for the remainder of the season, and Wilson was only punished with a meager $5,000 fine for roughing Buchnevich.
Cooke said that Wilson’s actions were predatory in nature.READ MORE: Celtics Guard Dennis Schroder Explains What Really Happened With That Contract Extension From Lakers
“To me, this isn’t looking a guy in the face and standing up for yourself,” Cooke told Rossi. “This is somewhat predatory.”
Cooke wasn’t the only player with a history of concussing Bruins forwards to chime in. John Scott was not a dirty player, per se, but he was a tough guy without any offensive skill who was suspended for elbowing Loui Eriksson in the head, leaving Eriksson with a concussion. Scott was suspended other times, too.
Despite respecting players who intimidate with their physical presence, Scott couldn’t endorse what Wilson did this week.
“It was a gutless move on his part, throwing around Panarin and punching Buchnevic in the face when he was on the ground in a prone position. Just gutless, terrible hockey,” Scott said in a Twitter video. “Listen, I love this type of hockey. I think we all do. But what Tom did was just, you can’t … there’s no excuse for that. It’s just insane to me that he only got a $5,000 fine. He’s a repeat offender, he’s done this time in and time out. … I have no words for it. It’s insane to me that he only got a $5,000 fine. It really is incredible.”
Of course, those words aren’t nearly as harsh as the ones that came from the New York Rangers organization. On Tuesday evening, the team released a statement that deemed George Parros — the former NHL enforcer who’s currently the senior vice president of player safety — unfit to perform his job.
“The New York Rangers are extremely disappointed that Capitals forward Tom Wilson was not suspended for his horrifying act of violence [Monday] night at Madison Square Garden,” the statement began. “Wilson is a repeat offender with a long history of these types 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. Wilson’s dangerous and reckless actions caused an injury to Artemi Panarin that will prevent him from playing again this season. We view this is a dereliction of duty by NHL head of player safety, George Parros, and believe he is unfit to continue in his current role.”
Obviously, this story won’t go away quietly. And while the Rangers’ stance on the matter is to be expected, it’s notable that even the likes of Matt Cooke and John Scott are speaking out against Wilson. While contrary opinions are surely out there, it does seem as though Parros erred by opting to not punish Wilson, beyond the minuscule fine.
For now, the Rangers and Capitals are set for a rematch on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, which will certainly create a dangerous scenario for the players on the ice. After that, the Capitals will finish their regular season, and Wilson may end up facing a team like the Bruins — a group that remains red hot for what Wilson did to them two months ago — in the first or second round.MORE NEWS: Report: James White Out Indefinitely With Hip Subluxation
It’s all a bit of a mess, and how it plays out is anybody’s guess. For now, though, we know this: If the five suspensions didn’t change Wilson’s point of view, then perhaps being described as “predatory” by someone like Matt Cooke can serve as a much-needed wake-up call to a player who simply doesn’t respect his fellow NHL players.