Gary Bettman and Suspensions – Why you should stop blaming him for everything

So before I go into this, because this will probably be one of the most “controversial” topics I’ll ever write about, I’d like to start with a quote that my father always says and that is “11 out of 10 people are stupid”, and right now I’m going to try to fix the stupid so please wish me luck.


So in the hockey world one of the hottest topics is that of NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and the “controversy” surrounding him in regards to the suspensions of Auston Watson, for domestic abuse off the ice, and Tom Wilson, for an illegal check to the head during a game. Now these are two completely separate matters and I’d like to take deeper looks into both suspensions and explain why both of these cases need to be considered as such.


First let’s take a look at Auston Watson of the Nashville Predators. During this past offseason Watson and his girlfriend had a domestic dispute that lead to some physicality and Watson being arrested for the incident. When all was said and done Watson pleaded no contest to the charges that were put against him. As a result of this off ice matter Commissioner Gary Bettman had a hearing with Watson, and then handed him a 27 game suspension for conduct detrimental to League. As a result of this ruling made by Bettman, per the CBA, Watson had the right to appeal this suspension, and since Bettman was the one handing out the suspension, to a neutral arbitrator. When Watson’s appeal was heard by the neutral arbitrator, the arbitrator reduced the suspension from 27 games to 18 games.


Now let’s look at Tom Wilson’s suspension. During a preseason game Wilson delivered an illegal check to the head of St. Louis Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist which resulted in a match penalty and game misconduct. Wilson had a Player Safety hearing with George Parros, the head of the Department of Player Safety, and was given a 20 game suspension given his recent history in the previous 12 months, and several sit down conversations and warnings that was given to him during that time. Recently Wilson and the NHLPA appealed the suspension which, per the CBA, was heard by Gary Bettman. This past Thursday Bettman upheld the suspension, and Wilson is now appealing to a neutral arbitrator that will hear the case on Wednesday October 31st.


So now that the back story on both cases have been established, let’s look the similarities and differences of both cases.



  • Auston Watson’s suspension was a result of an off ice matter.
  • Tom Wilson’s Suspension was a result of a play on the ice.
  • Watson’s suspension was given to him by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.
  • Wilson’s suspension was was given to him by George Parros from the Department of Player Safety.
  • Watson’s suspension could only be appealed to a neutral arbitrator per the CBA.
  • Wilson’s suspension has to be appealed to the Commissioner first, then, if upheld, can then be appealed to a neutral arbitrator per the CBA.



  • Watson’s original suspension handed to him by Bettman was 27 games.
  • Wilson’s suspension handed to him by Parros is 20 games.
  • Per the CBA, any suspension six (6) or more games can be appealed.


As you can tell the only similarity that these two have is that both suspensions were 20 or more games, but it’s what the differences are that matter here because this is where everyone is getting this confused. Auston Watson was suspended for an off ice offence and Gary Bettman handed down a punishment that he deemed appropriate for Watson’s particular case, whereas Tom Wilson was suspended for an illegal check to the head and has a history, and Bettman upheld the suspension originally given by George Parros.


So what is the issue here? The correct answer is there is none, but people are making an issue of it anyways.


Now there is the crowd that is going after Bettman and the League because there is no Domestic Violence policy in the NHL, which yes that is an issue and needs to be addressed in the next CBA talks with the NHLPA as there should be a Domestic Violence Policy with strict guidelines and penalties for when those types of matters occur, but right now there isn’t and we need to accept that fact that as of right now, and until a new policy can be put in place, this is how it works when it comes to Domestic disputes off the ice. The Commissioner reviews the off ice matter, and then he makes a ruling on the matter. Also let’s keep in mind that Slava Voynov is still considered suspended indefinitely, and if he were able to be allowed to return to the United States, which by the way per US law he can’t, then the League has made it known that more punishment would be coming his way as his Domestic Violence case is much more gruesome than the one concerning Auston Watson (and in no way are we saying that Watson’s case is minor, we are just stating that Voynov’s is a much more serious case as his wife beaten bloody, and hospitalized).


Now with the above stated let’s get right to it. Stop blaming Gary Bettman for what is going on right now, but most importantly, stop comparing off ice matters as if it were an on ice matter. They are completely different, and they can’t be compared. What was handed out by the League to Auston Watson and to Tom Wilson can’t be compared because they happened under different circumstances. Gary Bettman is handling these situations the best he can, and has done so with respect.


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