Not that I normally like to waste any more space on Tom Wilson than I have to, but here we are. It’s the NHL, so even after a frantic and exciting, if not elegant. opener to a very intriguing Final one of the main talking points remain the #43 Dipshit Train.
Still, I have to love the pure illustration of where hockey is in the sporting consciousness and the major tenets of the sport getting torn to shreds. Let’s review.
It’s hard to argue that Wilson didn’t at least commit an interference penalty, which he eventually got when one of the linesmen went to the two refs and said, “I don’t know if you’re blind, clueless, a total coward or all three, but you have to do something here.” Sadly, as all NHL refs do at this point in the season, they looked for any way to not grant a power play, and called the Knights for investigation of what happened to their brained teammate. In reality, Wilson was out to injure Marchessault and I’m guessing the only reason he didn’t hit him in the head is because he simply missed. Wilson should be suspended, probably for the rest of the series, but because the NHL is afraid of yelling white men (and even worse if they’re associated with Vancouver), he isn’t.
And it’s in that yelling that I find so funny. Contrast it with the current controversy in baseball. Whenever we get a hit like this in hockey, there are more than a few and far too many who will shout something like, “Well he should have had his head up!” or “You can’t admire your pass in this league!” or “He turns at the last minute!” (this last one is sometimes true and muddies up the water a bit, which provides far too much shelter for those who still type with one finger at a time). And yet they maintain a prominent position in hockey. Now take Anthony Rizzo’s slide/dragon screw to Elias Diaz. Yesterday we had Joe Maddon go full-on belch about how Elias Diaz shouldn’t play the position if that’s how he’s going to end up.
And everyone thinks Maddon is idiotic for saying such a thing. We don’t get into blaming the victim in every other sport. When someone gets clobbered in the NFL, rarely do you hear someone say, “Well he shouldn’t have been running a post!” And if someone does they probably worked for the Bears until this offseason. No one claims an NBA player shouldn’t leave his feet for a shot or rebound if he doesn’t want to land on someone’s strategically placed foot when coming back down. Yet in hockey, somehow there’s always a case to be made against the injured.
Yes, hockey is a faster game and the decisions come much quicker. These are also players who have done nothing else for most of their lives, including school, and have been trained to make decisions and plays at that speed. You and I can’t, but the reason they’re in the league is that they can. The one second Wilson had is equivalent to the two or three any free safety would have sizing up a receiver. And yet every time he does this, enough people including the league’s disciplinary committee, can throw enough shade at the one being hit to weasel out of a hard decision.
Secondly, and Ryan Lambert already got to this, is the fallacy of having a goon on your team prevents this. In the most deluded minds of the hockey world, Ryan Reaves’s presence deters this. Except he wasn’t on the ice. And when he was, Wilson wasn’t. And the knowledge that they could be on the ice together didn’t stop Wilson. Maybe Reaves fancies himself a real scorer now with two goals in two games, though he had to commit a penalty to get one that a once-again sack-less ref didn’t whistle.
“Oh sure”, some will say, “but Game 1 of the Final is too important of a time to do that stuff.” Which only makes the other side’s argument. If it’s needless and pointless at the most important times, then it’s pointless and needless at all the other times, too. And it makes any player like Wilson only feel more free to wreak such havoc in a game in November because what does a penalty or fight matter then?
I’m all for all of these fig leaves falling to the wayside. It’s a slow process, though.