Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson will appeal to a neutral arbitrator after NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman upheld Wilson’s 20-game ban Thursday. The appeal will be heard Wednesday in New York by Shyam Das, the league’s neutral disciplinary arbitrator.
Wilson was suspended on Oct. 3 by the NHL Department of Player Safety for an illegal check to the head of St. Louis Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist, who suffered a concussion and a shoulder injury from the hit.
After Bettman announced his decision Thursday, the NHL Players Association, working on behalf of Wilson, had seven days to appeal to a neutral arbitrator. The NHLPA took just one. Bettman’s original ruling followed a seven-plus hour appeal hearing on Oct. 18 in New York.
Capitals Coach Todd Reirden declined to discuss Bettman’s decision Friday afternoon after the Capitals practice in Calgary. Wilson was not made available to reporters after practice.
"I'm not going to comment on that subject right now just because I think [it] is probably still being decided what is going on from there,” Reirden said. “I will be more than happy to talk about it after it when it is all said and done."
There is a chance of Wilson’s suspension getting reduced by going to a neutral arbitrator. More players have been successful with neutral arbitrators than with Bettman’s rulings in the past.
Nashville forward Austin Watson recently had his 27-game ban for domestic abuse reduced to 18 games by Das.
In 2016, Dennis Wideman was suspended 20 games for abuse of an official, and a neutral arbitrator reduced the ban to 10 games. That process took a month and a half with Wideman already serving 19 games of his suspension.
The Capitals have one game to play before Oct. 31 — a 4 p.m. game tomorrow afternoon at Calgary, which will mark the 10th game served of his suspension.
Wilson’s suspension was his fourth dating back to last preseason. The DPS described the forward’s fourth incident as “an unprecedented frequency of suspensions in the history” of the department, which is what led to the harsh ruling.
Bettman concluded in his 31-page ruling that a fourth suspension meant Wilson was “not getting the message,” which reinforced that a 20-game ban “was necessary and appropriate and supported by clear and convincing evidence."
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