Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman will appeal his 20-game suspension for cross-checking a linesman.
The decision on whether to keep the suspension at 20 games will now go to a neutral arbitrator.
The NHLPA announced the decision after NHL commissioner Gary Bettman reaffirmed Wideman’s suspension following a Feb. 10 hearing. Originally the league’s hockey operations suspended Wideman 20 games, a ruling he appealed to Bettman under the CBA.
This is the first time in the collective bargaining agreement that a player will use go to a third-party arbitrator for such a situation.
Bettman did not agree with the NHLPA’s defense that a concussion sustained shortly before Wideman hit linesman Don Henderson on a Jan. 27 game against the Nashville Predators led to the collision.
“We are extremely disappointed but not surprised that Gary Bettman upheld the decision of his staff to suspend Dennis Wideman for 20 games,” the NHLPA said in a statement. “This decision completely ignores the effects of the concussion that Dennis sustained when he was driven into the boards eight seconds before colliding with the linesman. We will appeal to the Neutral Discipline Arbitrator in order to have this decision overturned.”
Flames president Brian Burke went on Sportsnet 590 with the Tim and Sid show shortly after the ruling. He said Calgary disagreed “vehemently” with the decision and called the play an “accidental collision.”
He also didn’t like how long a definitive ruling has taken. Wideman hasn’t played since Jan. 27.
“So to take a week to ‘rubber-stamp’ a decision that was made by the hockey operations department of the National Hockey League as games tick off for my player, that affect my team’s ability to win, that affect playoff races, that affect competitive balance, is incomprehensible to me,” he said. “We’re not questioning the integrity of the process — the appeal has gone to the commissioner. If all he’s going to do is ‘rubber-stamp’ it we accept that, but then do it quickly so it can get to this third party. The only objection we have here is the timing of this.”
For the appeal with Bettman, the NHLPA used two concussion experts, neurologist Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher and University of Toronto clinical neuropsychologist Dr. Paul Comper.
In his findings, Bettman noted that both experts examined Wideman days later, and not in person. He also pointed out how Wideman showed an understanding of his location and situation, calling for a line change before the incident.
As part of his suspension, the 32-year-old Wideman, who had never faced supplemental discipline prior in his career, will lose $564,516.20 of his annual salary.
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