NHL upholds Wideman's 20-game suspension for knocking down linesman
Nashville Predators players look over the bench at linesman Don Henderson after he was hit by Calgary Flames' Dennis Wideman during second period NHL hockey action in Calgary, Alberta, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016. (Jeff McIntosh / The Canadian Press via AP)
The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, February 17, 2016 5:25PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, February 18, 2016 10:38AM EST
NEW YORK - NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman upheld Calgary Flames defenceman Dennis Wideman's 20-game suspension for cross-checking a linesman.
The NHL announced the appeal decision Wednesday.
Wideman met with Bettman at a hearing in New York last week after the player appealed the suspension handed down Feb. 3 by NHL Senior Executive Vice-President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell. The NHL Players' Association later said in a statement that it plans to further appeal to neutral arbitrator James Oldham.
Wideman knocked down linesman Don Henderson during the second period of the Flames' game against Nashville on Jan. 27. Wideman was checked hard into the boards by Predators winger Miikka Salomaki. Wideman banged his stick on the ice, then knocked down Henderson in front of the Nashville bench. Wideman said he was in pain and was just trying to get off the ice, adding that he couldn't avoid Henderson.
"I do not see a basis for a lesser penalty, particularly given the severity of the conduct involved," Bettman wrote in the decision. "On the other hand, I have the authority to impose a more substantial suspension, and I am troubled by Mr. Wideman's total failure to accept any responsibility for his actions.
"Indeed, although he made much at the hearing about the apologies he had already made to Mr. Henderson, the sincerity of those apologies rings somewhat hollow given the text message he sent to a teammate on Feb. 2 - after the conclusion of the hearing before Mr. Campbell - that 'the only problem and the only reason I'm here is cause the stupid refs and stupid media.'
"Nevertheless, in light of Mr. Wideman's prior exemplary disciplinary record, I decline to increase the suspension imposed by Mr. Campbell."
Wideman's teammate Joe Colborne was asked after Calgary's 5-3 loss to Minnesota Wednesday night about the text message and said that it surprised him to learn that it played a factor in Bettman's decision.
"It's an eye-opener for sure," said Colborne. "Talking with him, text messages, and it's been proven time and time again, can be taken out of context. One text message in an overall conversation can be taken out of context.
"It's a learning experience for all of us players and it's something that we're going to have be cognizant of in the future. Guess you can't be texting your teammates too much anymore."
Flames winger David Jones added that the text message didn't need to be made public.
"If they have full ability to go after all that stuff, it's a little unfortunate but I think it's a little unfair to throw that out for everyone," said Jones. "I didn't think it needed to be put in the press release. It's a little unfair to him. He's very disappointed, obviously, with the way things have gone. I think he's an honest player and let's just leave it at that."
The suspension is the second-longest in NHL history for abusing an official.
The NHLPA said it was "extremely disappointed but not surprised" that Bettman upheld the suspension.
"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," the NHLPA said in the statement. "We will appeal to the neutral discipline arbitrator in order to have this decision overturned."
Jones also wasn't shocked when he heard the news that Bettman supported the 20-game suspension.
"I think a lot of us expected it not to really change so we'll have to just see how the process plays out," said Jones. "It's unfortunate as he's a big part of our team but none of us were expecting them to knock off 15 games or anything like that.
"We'll see where it goes moving forward."