Dennis Wideman ruling in two weeks; NHL investigating Flames
DENVER – Dennis Wideman last played in the NHL on January 27, the night when he slammed linesman Don Henderson from behind, concussed him and eventually earned a 20-game suspension from the NHL, costing him $564,516.20 in salary.
The Flames have played 12 games since then. They have six more to play through March 7, which is the earliest the NHL expects a neutral arbitrator to rule on Wideman’s appeal of his suspension, which was already upheld on an appeal to commissioner Gary Bettman.
So it’s possible he’ll have served 18 of the 20 games before he finds out if his suspension has been reduced.
Isn’t this process dragging on a bit?
“It’s what the system contemplates,” said NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly. “I would say that the National Hockey League, on both levels of the appeal, offered earlier dates than what the Players' Association was willing to take. It’s not to disparage anybody.”
The NHL took part in two days of hearings with the arbitrator. “This is different than the typical supplementary discipline case because there was a different type of defense. So there were different witnesses that had to testify,” said Daly.
“The arbitrator told us that he doesn’t anticipate being able to decide on the case until the week of March 7. Not next week. The following week. The parties are going to do a post-hearing brief, at the Players' Association’s request, and that’ll take place on Friday. So we’ll see what happens.”
The “post-hearing brief” is being used in lieu of closing oral arguments for the benefit of the arbitrator, said Daly.
If the suspension is reduced, Wideman will be reimbursed. “If he were to reduce the games, and he ends up missing games that he shouldn’t have missed, then he’ll get the money back,” said Daly.
However, Eric Macramalla of Forbes isn't optimistic for Wideman's case with neutral arbitrator James Oldham:
The concussion defence will always be challenging. While a broken arm can be easily diagnosed, it is obviously far more difficult to make a firm determination as to the impact of a hit on situational awareness and confusion. Throw in other evidence that does not clearly support an altered mental state together with inconsistent evidence from Wideman, and you are left with a tough case for the NHLPA.
Ultimately, in light of the evidentiary issues facing the NHLPA, it would be a surprise to see Oldham make the ambitious and precedent setting decision that a concussion may excuse otherwise unlawful and violent actions on the ice. Before rendering a decision of that magnitude, Oldham will need to be certain that such a ruling is clearly supported by the evidence.
When the Wideman appeal ruling is announced, expect some closure on another matter surrounding the assault on Don Henderson: What, exactly, happened in the Calgary Flames’ apparent disregard for the concussion protocol?
To review: According to the NHLPA, via Bettman’s ruling, the League’s concussion spotter noted that Wideman should have been removed from the game after the Henderson incident. Instead, Wideman indicated to the trainer that he needn’t be removed from the game and, instead, was back out taking a regular shift.
On top of that, Wideman gave an interview after the game in which he denied he was “woozy” and then testified in his hearing that he was told to lie about his condition, presumably by the Flames.
Daly said the League is looking into that breakdown, in light of the fact that Wideman’s defense was based on his having been concussed.
“We’ve had some discussions with the Flames. If we have something to announce, we’ll announce after Wideman [ruling],” he said.
Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.
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