Wilson of the Capitals was suspended six games for tackling Gregor of the Leafs

Washington (AP) –

Washington Capitals winger Tom Wilson was suspended for six games on Friday for punching Toronto Maple Leafs forward Noah Gregor in the face.

The NHL’s Department of Player Safety handed Wilson the longest suspension of any player this season following a disciplinary hearing on Zoom. The league, which offered this type of hearing instead of a phone call, allowed George Parros, the senior vice president of player safety, to impose a suspension of six or more games.

Wilson can appeal, first to Commissioner Gary Bettman and then, if he and the NHL Players’ Association so choose, to a neutral arbitrator. He was handed a 20-game suspension for a blindside hit to the head in 2018, which was reduced to 14 games by an arbitrator on appeal after he had already served 16 games.

In a video announcing the suspension, player security said Wilson was swinging his racket “extremely recklessly.”

“Wilson’s actions in this game are entirely within his own control, are irresponsible and have nothing to do with any legitimate hockey action,” the league said. “He is responsible for the dangerous outcome of the game, which is a direct and violent blow to the head of an opponent by a player with a significant track record in the additional discipline.”

It’s the sixth time Wilson has been suspended since 2017 and the first since he was suspended seven games for touching Boston’s Brandon Carlo with his head in 2021. He has also been fined three times: for gross violence in 2021, for knee injury in 2016 and embellishment in 2015.

Wilson will forfeit $161,458 in salary. He is already out Friday night against Carolina and will miss the upcoming games against Winnipeg, Detroit, Toronto, Boston and Buffalo.

That comes with the longest suspension of the season, a six-game suspension for Detroit’s David Perron for a cross-check on an unsuspecting opponent, for which he was also sent off. Wilson received a double minor penalty for Gregor’s high stick late in Washington’s 7-3 loss to Toronto on Wednesday night.

Wilson’s absence for a large portion of games down the stretch is a major blow to the Capitals, who are trying to make the playoffs after missing last year. Wilson was their All-Star representative and scored 17 goals, third-most among players remaining after sending Anthony Mantha to Vegas at the trade deadline.

“Huge absence from our lineup,” coach Spencer Carbery said after the team’s morning skate Friday. “I don’t need to go into detail about what he brings to our team from a leadership standpoint, veteran presence standpoint and what he does on the ice.”

Wilson, whose new seven-year, $45.5 million contract doesn’t begin until next season and who is widely viewed as Alex Ovechkin’s eventual successor as captain and face of the franchise, is not eligible to return until April.

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