Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman was suspended 20 games for a cross-check of linesman Don Henderson in a game before the All-Star break.
The play happened on Jan. 27 in a game against the Nashville Predators. A video of the situation is above. A day later, the league said it had suspended Wideman pending a hearing with hockey operations. That took place Monday with department director Colin Campbell presiding.
According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the NHL Players’ Association and Calgary Flames were slated to defend Wideman, who was going to say he was “woozy” or “foggy” on the play.
Wideman is reportedly expected to appeal the decision but cannot play during the appeal. If Wideman does appeal, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who wasn't part of the ruling, will preside. Sportnet's John Shannon reports Wideman and the NHLPA will decide on whether to appeal at some point Wednesday. After Bettman the appeal would go to an independent arbitrator.
The Flames have yet to publicly comment on Wideman since the suspension announcement.
Midway through the second period after being hit hard into the boards by Nashville’s Miikka Salomaki, Wideman headed off for a line change and crosschecked Henderson, knocking him to the ice. Local journalist Eric Francis reported Henderson was in the hospital until 5 a.m. the next morning after the hit dealing with nausea and neck pain. A concussion protocol was done on the official. Wideman was not penalized on the play.
The defenseman said he didn’t mean to hit Henderson according to the Calgary Sun.
“I just saw him at the last second,” Wideman said during a post-game scrum last Wednesday. “I was going to try to go (along) the boards, and he kind of moved towards the boards a little bit. I was kind of stuck in the trolley tracks there. It was an accident. I feel really bad about it.”
“It was obviously, in my view, not intentional,” Wideman said. “I would never try to hurt a linesman or a ref or anything like that. So, yeah, I’d be surprised. If that happens, all I can do is tell them my side, tell what happened and hope for the best.”
According to the NHL’s rulebook, this could have automatically merited a 10-game suspension.
“40.3 Automatic Suspension – Category II – Any player who deliberately applies physical force to an official in any manner (excluding actions as set out in Category I), which physical force is applied without intent to injure, or who spits on an official, shall be automatically suspended for not less than ten (10) games.”
Instead it was of the 20-game variety.
40.2 Automatic Suspension – Category I - Any player who deliberately strikes an official and causes injury or who deliberately applies physical force in any manner against an official with intent to injure, or who in any manner attempts to injure an official shall be automatically suspended for not less than twenty (20) games. (For the purpose of the rule, “intent to injure” shall mean any physical force which a player knew or should have known could reasonably be expected to cause injury.)
Friedman noted that the Officials’ Association was involved in this as well and said “It’s a powerful group, and it will push for harsh justice.”
Sportsnet’s Mark Spector wrote about how officials look to the league for protection in such matters.
“It doesn’t matter if he got hit before, or if he was not in full (consciousness),” said former long-time NHL referee Denis Morel. “No less than 10 games for sure. That was, in my books, a cheap shot.
In 2008, then Columbus Blue Jackets forward Mike Peca was suspended 10 games for grabbing the arm of a linesman. This was later reduced to five games. Here is a list of recent suspensions for physical abuse of officials.
Said Peca to the Trentonian:
“I’ve seen it multiple times from different angles, and I’ve listened to Wideman and his explanation ... who knows what he gets (as a suspension),” he said. “I mean, he took out a referee, very physically. I don’t know what his mindset was after getting hit; I don’t know if he was just dazed or ticked off. It’s hard to say. The video is pretty appalling from a fan’s perspective to see a referee go down in that manner.”
Wideman will forfeit $564,516 from his $5.25 million paycheck for this year. The 32-year-old Wideman has 19 points in 48 games played this season – coming off a year where he notched a career-high 56 points in 80 games played.
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