The frustration continued when he read Elliotte Friedman’s “30 Thoughts” column this week after hearing his name was mentioned in it. Friedman, a well-connected national hockey reporter, wrote that the NHL’s Player Safety Department has been meeting with “several repeat offenders in an attempt to reign them in,” and after some general managers have complained about Wilson’s hits, a meeting has reportedly been requested with Wilson.
Wilson didn’t appear to doubt the accuracy of the Friedman’s reporting, but said that he hasn’t been contacted for a meeting and Trotz said he hadn’t heard of such a request yet either.
“I do know that one of the things the league is trying to do is trying to educate all of the players,” Trotz said. “To me, what that was probably more about is that players that are physical like Tom, they’re going to try to educate them. … Tom plays tough, and he plays hard and he doesn’t play cheap. To me, when you’re big and strong like him, he goes through people and he hits hard. Other teams don’t have that, so they tend to complain a little bit more.”
For Wilson, his name being lumped in with a group of players who may have a reputation around the league as being “dirty” hitters was upsetting.
“I know that in my career I’ve never been a dirty hitter,” Wilson said. “When I was in the [Ontario Hockey League], I was voted by the GMs, ‘Best Body Checker’ for two years in a row. When that changed to GMs kind of complaining about me, I don’t know. I’ve always tried to be an honest hitter. I’ve tried to hit clean. I have pride in my physical game. I don’t hit to hurt people. A lot of people that were mentioned on that list kind of hit to hurt people. …
“Being a good body checker, when guys have their head out, I mean, I’ve passed up on probably 15 or 20 hits this year that could’ve been big, bad hits that you see on SportsCenter and guys going down and guys getting hurt. When I’m finishing someone, you’ll see me turn away an awful lot because I’m not trying to hit a guy when they’re in a vulnerable position.”
After Wilson got called for roughing after joining in on a scrum against the Dallas Stars, Trotz talked to the referee with Wilson during a stoppage for the referee to explain why the penalty had been called. He wanted Wilson to understand the referee’s thinking, part of a learning process of how to toe the line between playing hard and getting under opposing players’ skin without playing outside of the rules.
But Wilson also wonders if complaints from general managers and news reports about those complaints leads to some referees being quick to whistle because of his reputation.
“When that news comes out like that and your name is circulating like that, I mean, everyone’s human,” Wilson said. “The refs are human, we’re human in here and the other players, they’re all reading that stuff and that’s all in the back of their head. Maybe if they see a big scrum, No. 43 is in the back of their head and they pull you out. …
“Obviously, I have to be a little bit more careful these days when I’m going into scrums. I’m not dumb and I have been hearing what they’re saying and I’ve been seeing what the refs have been calling. I’ve been seeing that other teams are complaining. I hear about that stuff, and it’s tough to kind of go out there and play the fastest game on earth with that in the back of your head.”