This is (sometimes) what justice looks like

Tom Wilson has done a few Very Bad Things in his day, and Nick Foligno appears to think that means Tom has lost the benefit of the doubt.

Tom Wilson has done a few Very Bad Things in his day, and Nick Foligno appears to think that means Tom has lost the benefit of the doubt. NBCSN

Last night Tom Wilson, a 24-year-old Canadian and infamous Tough Guy for the Washington Capitals, returned to the ice, roughly a month and a week since he did a Very Bad Thing to a 24-year-old Swede called Oskar Sundkvist. 

The Caps were in St. Paul for the night to play the Minnesota Wild. Midway through the second period, with Washington up 3-1, Wilson and Minnesota Tough Guy Marcus Foligno dropped gloves and threw hands.

Wilson's got a few inches and a dozen or more pounds on Foligno, who scrapped it up pretty good, considering Tom Wilson's the kind of dude who works his way from seventh-most penalty minutes in the NHL as a rookie to second-most, in 2017-18.

Keep thuggin' it up, Tom; someday you'll get to number one. We at City Pages believe in you.

Wilson had already scored a goal in Tuesday night's game, and, in so doing, skated right into (and through) Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk. Wilson's goal was assisted by his teammate Dmitry Orlov, and his collision with Dubnyk was assisted by his opponent, Ryan Suter. Wilson pulled off the rare goon'/star's moment in picking up a penalty while simultaneously scoring a goal. Judge it for yourself.

But clearly, in the eyes of Nick Foligno -- or whoever dispatched him to go find Tom Wilson and confront him -- guys like Tom Wilson have lost the benefit of the doubt, and need a stern talking to. Here's how that went down.

All in all, looks pretty clean and even, with not much damage done on either side. Note how far and ducked away Foligno has to keep his head away from Wilson, such is Tom's long-armed reach. And note how in the end it is big bad Tom Wilson who is the man revealed to be -- and reader, we use this word intentionally -- unbalanced.

The hockey goon is sort of dying out as a breed, and that's probably for the best, given how uncomfortable it makes the soul to see two men floating on a sheet of ice square their shoulders up with nothing between them save a vendetta. No one makes it out of a bloodsport career without sustaining damage. (Hey, even Ali got hit. A whole buncha times one night in Kinshasa, matter of fact.) 

To the untrained eye, and out of context, the hockey fight is pure pulp, villainy/thuggery/buffoonery served cold, in a glass and on ice, acts of violence no less arbitrary than gladiators put to the sword or the (apocryphal) tales of Mandingo slave fights in Tarantino's Django Unchained, or the (very real) dog fights in Iniarittu's Amores Perros, or the (not that apocryphal!) notion you can get certain Irishmen to try just about anything, as depicted in Ritchie's Snatch.

Properly executed, though, the hockey fight -- sometimes even just the threat of a hockey fight -- is a straightforward form of justice. Someone, some capable and (in the NHL, anyway) well-paid adult man, has broken a rule. Another man is assigned to catch up to him and inform him of his crime. Make him pay for it, at least a little. Maybe teach him a lesson.

It's not all that fun to think about, in hindsight, especially when you consider Derek Boogard was a nice guy whose life got ruined before he lost it.

And fans who show up and cheer louder for a fight than they do for inventive wizardry are no better than those few unhinged who very much look forward to explosive moments in collision sports, like what happened to Dale Earnhardt, or Barbaro, or Buster Posey, or Joe Mauer, or Eric Lindros, or ... roughly a third of NFL players, or so it seems.

This would be a better world if all vengeance could be as sweet as Steph Curry dumping a preposterous 51 on the Washington Wizards for meddling with his little brother, or Lizzo blowing away her haters by playing some flute. We do not ask you to relish the hockey fight. We ask you to consider the hockey fight, to try to understand it, see its ugly but meaningful place in the game as an act of self-policing -- how it makes a certain sense when the New York Yankees come running at Pedro Martinez for pointing at his head, or Roy Keane gets Patrick Vieira the fuck away from Gary Neville in the tunnel, or Khabib Nurmagomedov wanting to fight literally anyone in Conor McGregor's camp because Conor is a racist bigot and a liar

And if you can understand any of the narratives in that last paragraph, of grown adults standing up for a wounded or threatened teammate -- or in Nurmagomedov's case, standing up for his very culture -- than you ought to be able to get your head around the concept of young men in cities teaming up to watch each other's backs, and do some underground commerce -- just about the only type of deals their kind are allowed to make -- and make sure no one on their team gets hurt... or not without the person who did the hurting getting a stern talking to... and why if you don't exactly trust cops in the first place (or the authorities don't or can't or won't help protect you and yours), you might not involve them at all, and would rather just handle things yourself, face to face, shoulders squared up.

And on a note directly related to every single word above: Here's an old story from 2008 about what happens when good people don't let fascists get too comfortable.