After seven hours of hearings in New York City and seven days of waiting in Calgary, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has announced his verdict on the Dennis Wideman suspension appeal.
Bettman has upheld Wideman’s 20-game ban, originally dealt by NHL director of hockey operations Colin Campbell, after weighing the lengthy appeal heard one week ago today.
The message has been reinforced: Do not hit an official, under any circumstances.
The NHLPA and Wideman, who has now cleared concussion protocol and has already served seven games of his suspension, now have the option to further appeal to an independent arbitrator.
The Calgary Flames defenceman was suspended 20 games for colliding with Don Henderson and cross-checking the linesman to the ice in a late-January game against the Nashville Predators. (Watch the incident above.)
Wideman will forfeit $564,516.13 in salary to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund for violating Rule 40 (Physical Abuse of Officials).
The veteran blueliner was not penalized on the play but was suspended indefinitely by the league after the game concluded. Henderson was able to complete the game but did spend a night in the hospital afterward to get checked out.
Henderson has since been sidelined and there is no timeline for his return, the league told Sportsnet in an email Tuesday evening.
Wideman apologized to Henderson on the ice and again publicly after receiving his ban.
Prior to checking Henderson, 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.
“Throughout my career I think I’ve treated every official with the utmost respect and I’d never try to intentionally hit a linesman or ref,” Wideman said.
In making its case, the NHLPA was using medical evidence to explain Wideman’s actions.
The Flames host the Minnesota Wild Wednesday night, their eighth consecutive game without Wideman in the lineup.