Capitals Tom Wilson Injures Bruins Brandon Carlo – How The NHL Should Punish Players

Washington Capitals Tom Wilson’s Vicious Hit On Bruins Brandon Carlo Draws A Light Punishment

A Simple Solution On How The NHL Should Determine Future Suspensions

Capitals Tom Wilson (43) about to slam Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo’s (25) head into the plexiglass. March 5, 2021

It’s not like a ton of people watch hockey or care about it. But for those who do love the game they like it to be played clean. Yes there are occasional fights, but generally the game requires a substantial skill set and most of the time dirty play is absent from hockey.

Hockey is inherently a fast and sometimes violent game. On Friday, March 5, the Washington Capitals Tom Wilson hit Boston Bruins Brandon Carlo with a vicious slam to the head.

Upon review, this play was reckless. It appears not to be a heat of the moment hard check on Wilson’s part, but an intentional attempt to disable. From this play there could be long term implications for Carlo’s health and playing career. Wilson and his teammates believe that this was a “clean hit.”

The Hit

Decide for yourself if this was clean or dirty:

Without leaving his feet Wilson angles his entire body up towards Carlo then piledrives Carlo’s head into the glass. Carlo grabs his head and then collapses. As one commenter on youtube wrote “It was an unnecessary, malicious, intentional, cowardly hit on an unaware player who was playing the puck.”

The incredible part is that referees Dean Morton and Pierre Lambert found that Wilson did not do anything wrong and Wilson received no penalty.

Carlo went To Massachusetts General Hospital and was kept overnight. Carlo will be out of the line-up for the foreseeable future, his status being described as “week to week.”

The Penalty

On March 6 the NHL’s poorly named Department of Player Safety suspended Wilson for seven games and he will lose $311,782 in salary.

Seven games?

Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin called the rules that led to the suspension “kind of a joke.”

Maybe superstar Ovechkin is considering it a joke because the rules are a joke, at least to him.

In the previous Capitals Bruins match-up, a nationally broadcast game two days earlier on Wednesday March 3, Ovechkin speared the Bruins Trent Frederic in the groin. A two minute roughing penalty was called. This should have been an automatic match penalty and expulsion from the game. Afterwards the league fined Ovechkin $5,000.


About Wilson’s hit, Capitals teammate T.J. Oshie said he has gotten “hit like that all the time.”

That may be true. In order to make a ridiculous statement like that, you would have to be “hit like that all the time,” and you now suffer from mental impairment. Apparently Oshie is unable to distinguish a clean hit from a dirty one.

Capitals star Lars Eller said the supplemental discipline Wilson received “doesn’t really add up, no.”

Agreed. It should have added up to a lot more than seven games.

Don’t get me wrong, I actually like Ovechkin, Oshie and Eller as players. But defending Wilson’s action is turning a blind eye to something that just as easily could have happened to one of them.

From the unsurprising united viewpoint of the Capitals, Wilson’s high, hard check during their 5-1 loss in Boston did not warrant a suspension, nor was it intentional or egregious in nature. They also believe Wilson’s hit would not have drawn as much attention if Carlo had not been injured and if not for Wilson’s reputation.

But that is the point.

On a clean play. if a player gets hurt accidentally there should be no suspension.

Carlo was injured and it sure looked deliberate. And Wilson is a repeat offender.

It is the fifth suspension of Wilson’s career and his first since September 2018, when he was suspended 20 games for an illegal check to the head of St. Louis Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist during a preseason game. That penalty was reduced to 14 games on appeal.

The Solution

Realize most hockey players have never been suspended. How do you discourage the few players who consistently violate other players safety from doing it again?

Simple. The way a player is penalized and suspended, should be revamped to reflect the injury he caused to the other player.

Was this committed by a player who has a previous history of dirty plays? In that context, the league should determine if the offense was a malicious act with attempt to injure. If it is judged to be so and a player is hurt due to a dirty play and the injured player will miss games due to that injury, the offending player should be suspended a minimum of the same amount of time the injured player is out for, plus an additional three games and forfeit their salary. Maximum penalty could be up to a full year

If the injured player is not forced out of the line-up in future games, the NHL can continue doling out suspensions with arbitrary length.

Will the possibility of a significant loss of their own playing time give players a large enough deterrent from committing intentional malice on ice? Change the rules and we’ll see.

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3 thoughts on “Capitals Tom Wilson Injures Bruins Brandon Carlo – How The NHL Should Punish Players

  1. Chris

    I watch hockey (Isles fan & watch about 70 reg season games a yr), Wilson led with his body and could’ve broken Carlo’s neck. He was going for his head not his torso. I like physical hockey but that look more like intent to hurt.

  2. Karl Grace

    As someone who does watch hockey, and does care, your comments are pretty off base. This was a very hard hit, no question. Was it intended to injure? That’s a stretch. The initial point of contact if you view the images was the arm/shoulder – exactly where the hit should be. Unfortunately Carlo had his head down (kids playing are always told to keep your head up- because of this). As a result the follow through impacted his head. Unfortunate. A very hard hit. But Oshie is right – this sort of hit happens a lot. It ends up as a suspension because Wilson “has a history”. Which is a pretty odd way to view it. If the same hit happens and it’s Carlson or Eller delivering, is it NOT suspendable? Because that would make no sense.

  3. Kevin

    It seems to me — a guy who never cared about sports — the team owners are loathe to punish any player, particularly those who bring in the fans and advertisers.

    My suggestion: force the owner to be on the receiving end of that hit. Then see if his perception is any different.


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