Reaves was ejected from the Vegas Golden Knights’ 5-3 win against the Washington Capitals on Tuesday, and that ended up being the extent of discipline, as he was not suspended. Wilson needed to be helped off of the ice following that check; it was an ugly sight, as Wilson’s helmet came off during the fall, leaving him without protection when his head hit the ice.
In the locker room after the win, Reaves addressed the hit as such: “[H]e was looking at his pass and ran into a lion in the jungle.”
It’s bad enough to say that in the locker room after the game, when emotions can still be high, and before it was essentially confirmed that Wilson suffered a concussion.
The ill-advised decisions didn’t stop there, however, as Russian Machine Never Breaks’ Ian Oland reported that Reaves autographed photos of the aftermath of the hit for a company named “Inscriptagraphs.”
The Washington Post’s Scott Allen tracked down some screengrabs of Inscriptagraphs’ Instagram page (say that five times fast), noting that the company described the autographed photo as “the must-have Christmas gift of the year.” Yikes.
If nothing else, Reaves & Co. realized that it was not wise to go down that road.
As the first sign that cooler heads prevailed, the Inscriptagraphs website took down the listing. Reaves told Jesse Granger of The Athletic that he did indeed sign those photos, but eventually had a change of heart, prompting them to be destroyed. It was noted that the photos were destroyed:
The Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Ed Graney had a bit more, including Reaves hinting that it’s not unusual to sign bad things?
“I’ve signed a lot worse, but in this age of social media and concussions, and the fact (Wilson) was hurt, you never want to see that,” Reaves said. “I called the guy (at Inscriptagraphs) right away, and we took care of it before it got out.”
One would think that this will be the end of this sordid saga, beyond Wilson’s recovery process stemming from that concussion, as the two teams won’t meet again during the 2018-19 regular season. With Reaves avoiding supplemental discipline, it’s tough to imagine more coming from this.
Keeping this ugly story in the headlines does bring to mind the NHL’s wider confusion with supplemental discipline, though.
With Matt Dumba avoiding a suspension for a highly questionable hit in Thursday’s Flames – Wild game, it’s sometimes difficult to work out through the league’s muddled messages about what “the line” really is. It’s something Capitals players discussed following that Reaves hit on Wilson Tuesday, as Granger reported (sub required).
“Who knows anymore? I don’t feel like anyone knows what’s going on anymore,” Brett Connolly said. “I don’t know if it was to the head or the top of the shoulder, but it’s still one of those hits they’re trying to get out of the game. They have a tough job, those refs. It’s a quick game. They have a tough job and they’re trying to call it the way they’re being told from people a lot higher than me and you. So we’re just trying to as players figure it out too. It’s tough.”
Connolly hits on a point about hits by Reaves, Dumba, and Wilson too: there are a lot of frame-by-frame breakdowns of checks that blur the line. Was the head the primary point of contact? Did the offending hitter’s skates leave the ice? How late was it?
But are we losing sight of the big picture by diving into the hyper-specific details?
Capitals coach Todd Reirden believed that Reaves was targeting Wilson all game long, and the situation devolved into that hit. As we learn more about the impact concussions have on the lives of athletes (and everyday people), you wonder if the league might need to take less of a laissez-faire attitude when it comes to these “feuds.”
Sure, there’s a “nature of the beast” element to all of this, as hockey’s a violent, physical game. Yet, plenty of these hits can feel predatory in nature. Was an offending hit really a hockey play? Perhaps the Department of Player Safety needs to consider setting new precedents about how they police interference, as just one example of contexts when dangerous hits can happen. The league should at least consider common sense ways to try to cut down on these cloudy, borderline situations.
It’s unclear how long Wilson will be sidelined with this concussion. The winger (who scored 14 points in 11 games in a red-hot run returning from his lengthy suspension) missed Thursday’s Capitals win against the Coyotes, and the Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan believes that Wilson will miss Saturday’s action, too.
He’s currently labeled day-to-day, a descriptor that’s even hazier than the league’s stance on borderline hits.
Hopefully NHL players will be more clear-eyed when it comes to how they conduct themselves following controversial hits in the future, though.