Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman was suspended indefinitely by the NHL on Thursday, after his bizarre attack on linesman Don Henderson.
Wideman took at hit along the boards from Miikka Salomaki of the Nashville Predators on Wednesday night. He got up slowly and skated to the Flames’ bench. Inexplicably, Wideman then raised his gloves and stick, plowing into the upper back of Henderson and knocking him to the ice. Wideman calmly stepped back onto the bench and sat down, looking dazed.
“I took a pretty hard hit down in the corner. Had pretty good pain in my shoulder and my neck. I was trying to get off the ice. I as kind of keeled over. At the last second I looked up and I saw him,” said Wideman, who wasn’t penalized on the play. “I went over to Donny and apologized on the ice. I didn’t know how to get out of the way of him.”
Eric Francis reported that Henderson was at a local hospital until 5 a.m., dealing with nausea and neck pain. He was given a concussion protocol.
Was Wideman? He wouldn’t say after the game if he was suffering from any symptoms, and said he would be surprised if the NHL took action against him.
But they are, with a hearing targeted for Tuesday, according to Darren Dreger.
There wasn’t going to be a ruling on this around the All-Star Game, for obvious reasons: The Flames don’t play until Wednesday and the NHL doesn’t need bad press around its festival of frivolity. And, frankly, this buys the NHL more time to suss out a tough call.
The incident brings up a couple of uncomfortable things. First is that Wideman’s going to have a hard time avoiding a 10-game suspension. From the NHL rulebook:
“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.”
That’s pretty cut and dry. Kerry Fraser thinks there’s a long shot for a smaller ban:
It would be a reach, but hockey operations might also buy into Wideman’s claim and reduce the suspension to not less than three games under Rule 40.3 — category lll, even though that category is intended more for threats where contact is generally applied in breaking free from an official during an altercation.
The other uncomfortable part of this is that Wideman’s defense is basically that he didn’t have his wits about him after the Salomaki hit. Yet he was back on the ice 2:05 later for a regular shift, and finished the game. After, you know, basically assaulting an official.
Would the NHL excuse this momentary lapse of reason because Wideman got his bell rung? Because if they did, wouldn’t the Flames’ medical and coaching staffs look completely incompetent in dealing with Wideman’s mental state?
The prediction: 10 games. Can’t imagine that’s avoidable.