Washington Capitals enforcer Tom Wilson punched out an opposing player on Wednesday, appearing to answer a critic who suggested he was a coward.
But his critic wasn’t wearing a uniform. Let us explain:
In the Stanley Cup playoffs last spring, Wilson illegally struck the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Zach Ashton-Reese in the head, earning a suspension. Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford called out Wilson for backing down from a fight with the Penguins’ 6-foot-7, 250-pound Jamie Oleksiak in the aftermath. “When Jamie challenged Wilson, he couldn’t run quick enough to get away from him,” Rutherford told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
On Wednesday, Wilson played his first game against the Penguins since his suspension. It took mere seconds for Wilson to go after Oleksiak and drop his gloves. He quickly pummeled the giant to the ice.
Several outlets surmised that the fight was fueled by the executive’s comment questioning Wilson’s courage. In the moment, the announcers said in the clip above that Wilson took offense to contact on a teammate earlier in the game.
“I think both parties knew,” Wilson said of the fight, per NBC Sports. “I read the stuff that’s said after last season and leading up to it. Yeah, I think it probably had to be done sooner or later, give [Oleksiak] a chance to defend his teammate after what happened last year. Obviously, you never want to see a guy go down like that. That’s hockey. I respect him as a player, and it’s unfortunate to see that.”
Oleksiak was helped off the ice.