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We all know him. Tom Wilson, the Washington Capitals’ controversial right winger. Known for his heads-up style of hockey and his constant love/hate relationship he has in the hockey world. Perhaps the most controversial player of the modern era, Wilson is booed and wooed more or less depending on which way the seats are tilted. However, should we be wooing for him more and booing at him less?
Wilson was drafted in the first round, 16th overall, in 2012 by the Washington Capitals. In those 6 years, he has established himself as a gritty, tough type of player. The 24 year old Toronto native finds himself on the suspension list often and finds himself on every debate thread across the internet. The debate often involves his style of play and how he plays the game more than his personal character and achievements in his career. I often see him on the negative end of the spectrum and it made me wonder why. Wilson is the epitome of what we all claim to want in hockey! Now hear me out before you jump to any assumptions about what you’re going to be reading, let’s step back and look at the big picture.
When you hear the word, maybe you think back to the days of old. Gordie Howe doing unimaginable feats, Mario Lemieux going up ice to sink in yet another goal, Dominic Hasek shuffling and sprawling for a loose puck, the glory of the Russian 5 in Detroit. When you think back to old time hockey, you undoubtedly think of what we all wanted to see: Bob Probert, Tie Domi, Matthew Barnaby, Tiger Williams, Scott Stevens, Marty McSorley, Mark Messier… You loved to see these guys drop em and hit em high. You loved to see those fast, hard-hitting games. The fights when your favorite player was hit by a cheap shot. The spark it gave the crowd, the team. The bench clearing brawls.
Fast forward 20 years and we see that the game has changed. Skaters are faster, shots are harder. The game has evolved. With that game change, we see less fighting. We see less of the hits. What we find ourselves in is a “European-style gentlemen’s game”. Whenever the thought of “banning fighting in hockey” comes up, the hockey community loses their fucking minds.
Some of my favorite comments are: “Fighting is part of the game!”, “Hard hits are part of the game!”, and “If you don’t like how rough the sport is, go watch basketball!”. We all want old fashioned hockey back.
We miss it. It’s what we need. Tom Wilson is just that guy.
We all want that gritty, tough, hard hitting, fighting, grinding type of play to return. Tom Wilson is that player. People whine about his controversial playing, but we both know anybody would love him on their team. He brings an old school aspect back to the game. Yes, there are a few others. Ryan Reaves, Matthew Tkachuk, Brad Marchand are just a few, but nobody does it like Wilson.
Not only is Tom Wilson a controversial player, but he’s a pretty successful player, too. With a career of 44 goals, 72 assists, a +32 rating, and a Stanley Cup to boot. He’s not a player to turn a cheek to. He’s got a job to do, and it’s to get in there, be a physical presence and get under the opponents skin.
He isn’t a goon, he’s a grinder. So whether you like Tom Wilson or not, it’s as plain as day. He is what hockey used to be. Is he as tough as they used to be? No. Is he as good as Ovechkin, Crosby, McDavid, or even Dylan Larkin? No. But he’s not supposed be. He is supposed to be something different and that’s exactly what he is.