Crosby, Aston-Reese Sound Off on Wilson Hit

“Obviously, the point hasn’t been made yet.”

Josh Rowntree
October 01, 2018 - 2:34 pm
Washington Capitals right wing Tom Wilson (43) checks St. Louis Blues center Oskar Sundqvist (70) in the second period at Capital One Arena.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Another year, another dirty hit by Capitals forward Tom Wilson. 

The latest in Wilson’s ever-growing list of brutal head shots came Sunday, when he blindsided St. Louis forward and former Pittsburgh Penguin Oskar Sundqvist in Washington’s preseason finale. 

“We’ve talked about it a lot with him,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. “He still chooses to make those hits. I’m sure the League is well aware of that. It’s not the first time we’re talking about a hit that he made.

“For whatever reason, he still decides to do that.”

Wilson does have an in-person hearing the the NHL’s Department of Player Safety, an indication that a suspension is likely. 

The Penguins have frequently discussed Wilson’s antics because his hits have often injured Pittsburgh players, including defenseman Brian Dumoulin and forward Zach Aston-Reese in last year’s postseason.

“He plays on that edge,” said Aston-Reese, who received a broken jaw and concussion, courtesy of Wilson. “It’s something that, with bigger guys, guys that don’t have as much skill as first liners, that’s how they have to play. Unfortunately, it was a little over-the-line. 

“If you’re a guy that’s bordering that line, I think it’s something you need to be aware of and pay attention to.”

Wilson’s rap sheet goes deeper than his hits against Pittsburgh. In last year’s Stanley Cup Final, Wilson lined up and controversially hit Vegas’ Jonathan Marchessault. 

He has been suspended three times in the past year, including twice in the 2017-2018 preseason for hits against the Blues. 

St. Louis coach, and former Penguins assistant Mike Yeo, called the hit on Sundqvist “predatory,” saying Sundqvist will likely miss a decent amount of time with multiple upper-body injuries. 

“He was one of the first guys I met when I was down in Wilkes-Barre, starting out my pro career,” Aston-Reese said of Sundqvist. “He was a good teammate to me. I just hope he’s okay and heals quickly and will be back on the ice soon.”

Ultimately though, the situation comes back to player safety. And it appears some Penguins players, especially Crosby, are tired of dealing with a player like Wilson.

“He’s a good player,” Crosby said. “He’s got speed and goes hard to the net. He’s a tough guy to play against. So there’s really no reason to continue to hit like that.

“Guys get hit. It’s part of the game, it happens fast. The intent’s not there. But, when guy does it a handful of times, you start to question what the intent is.

“This is kind of a unique situation where you’ve got someone who continues to do it. I’m just pointing out the obvious here.”

The NHL suspended Wilson for three games after his hit on Aston-Reese. Some thought the suspension was too light, others, particularly Washington players, were outraged by the severity of the discipline. 

Both Crosby and Aston-Reese, however, would not criticize the NHL’s handling of head shots.

“I think they’re down,” Crosby said. “I think guys are pretty aware now. I don’t think there’s as many as there used to be. I think, for the most part, guys are pretty aware out there of what’s legal and what’s not.”

“They’ve stepped in and handed out punishments when necessary,” Aston-Reese added. “The whole sports world, head injuries are being taken more seriously and guys who have gone through it are advocating.”

The Penguins, interestingly enough, host Washington Thursday night in the regular season opener. Aston-Reese will not play in that game, having been sent down to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Monday. His coach, Mike Sullivan, suggested that the offseason injury had an impact on his ability to make the NHL roster early this year. 

Wilson likely will not be on the ice for that game either, as long as the Department of Player Safety actually does what they are supposed to do.

“I just don’t know how many opportunities you need,” Crosby said, when asked if Wilson should be disciplined. “Obviously, the point hasn’t been made yet.”

Hear more from Penguins captain Sidney Crosby below.