Suspended Calgary Flames defenceman Dennis Wideman has undergone the requisite concussion protocol and has been cleared to practise with his team while he serves the remainder of a 20-game ban, which was dealt by the NHL Wednesday.
Wideman, who was in Toronto for his hearing Tuesday, returned to Flames practice in Calgary Thursday.
The NHLPA and the Flames used “medical evidence” as part of its defence of Wideman during the hearing, and the player did appear dazed before physically abusing linesman Don Henderson.
Wideman apologized to Henderson on the ice and again Thursday in his first media appearance since the suspension, now under appeal to commissioner Gary Bettman.
Reading a brief, prepared statement, Wideman said he was disappointed in the length of the league’s punishment, which will cost him more than $564,000, and reiterated his clean disciplinary record prior to the Henderson collision. He thanked fans and the Flames organization for their support.
Prior to cross-checking Henderson a week ago Wednesday, Wideman had just been on the receiving end of a hard hit from Predators forward Miikka Salomaki. Wideman’s head rattled off the boards, he got up slowly, and appeared woozy as he skated to the Calgary bench.
“I was just trying to get off the ice. And, at the last second, I looked up and saw him,” Wideman explained post-game. “I couldn’t avoid it. I didn’t know where to go or how to get out of the way of him.”
Wideman did not, however, leave the bench to undergo concussion protocol. He finished the game without a missed shift.
If Wideman’s suspension is still longer than six games after the Bettman ruling, he can take the issue to an independent arbitrator.
“We strongly disagree with the League’s decision to suspend Dennis Wideman,” said the NHLPA in a statement. “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.”
In its first game played under the suspension, Calgary defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 4-1 but suffered a scare when defenceman T.J. Brodie left with an injury. The Flames host the Columbus Blue Jackets Friday night.