By: Mario GoLuza
Recently Calgary Flames D-Man Dennis Wideman was suspended 20 games for his hit on linesman Don Henderson during their home loss against the Nashville Predators. The NHLPA filed an appeal on Wideman’s behalf and Wideman has the option to further appeal to a neutral arbitrator if the suspension remains at six or more games after NHL commissioner Bettman renders a decision on the NHLPA appeal. The NHLPA stated:
“We strongly disagree with the League’s decision to suspend Dennis Wideman. Dennis has played in 11 NHL seasons and almost 800 games without incident. The facts, including the medical evidence presented at the hearing, clearly demonstrate that Dennis had no intention to make contact with the linesman.”
If the suspension stands, Wideman stands to forfeit $564,516.20.
Wideman’s argument is based on the fact that he was disoriented after taking a hit by Predators winger Miikka Salomaki. This is backed by the fact that he had suffered a concussion after the hit, which was confirmed after the Flames loss. Wideman was not penalized for the hit on the linesman and although Wideman refused to seek medical attention and leave the game, Should he be suspended and fined for the hit?
According to Flames President Brian Burke the answer is NO. Burke stated:
“We disagree with the severity of today’s suspension ruling and maintain that Dennis’ collision with the linesman was unintentional and accidental. We agree that our officials’ safety and well-being is of extreme importance in order to allow them to perform their duties. They perform an invaluable but underappreciated role in our game. We support sanctions against players who make deliberate contact with any official. However, unintentional and accidental contact does occur at times in our game.”
Wideman then further added:
“At the last second, I looked up and saw [Henderson] and couldn’t avoid it. I went up to Donnie and apologized to him on the ice. I didn’t see him. I didn’t know where to go and how to get out of the way. I’ve been around for a few years, and I think I’ve treated every official with the utmost respect, and I would never intentionally try to hit a linesman or a ref. It was completely unintentional, and I already apologized to him.”
At the next stoppage, Wideman skated over to where the officials were gathered and apologized.
Looking at past incidents: Carcillo’s elbow on linesman Driscoll in the 94’ Rangers Eastern Conference final (5-game suspension), or Mike Peca’s 10-game suspension in 98’ for grabbing the arm of referee Greg Kimmerly while protesting an opposing goal (which was reduced to 5-games after appeal),
Do legal repercussions need to be implemented?
This debate has been brought up in the past but to implement drastic measures-such as legal charges-is ridiculous. Hockey has been around for over 100 years, and although the game has got a lot rougher over time, legal charges in cases such as Wideman’s do not call for legal measures. The proposed 20-game suspension even seems rather extensive, and will hopefully be reduced after appeal, but where does the NHL draw the line on hits on officials?
There are only two incidents in recent times that legal measures seemed appropriate: Bertuzzi/Moore and Brashear/McSorley, and both incidents cannot even be mentioned within the same context of Wideman’s hit.
So what is the appropriate punishment for Wideman? You be the judge?