Bring on the next case of outrage.
Outrage, after all, is what the sports world is about. Social media, in particular, is filled with outrage over this, that or the other.
Measured, thoughtful responses? No thanks. WE WANT OUTRAGE.
Which brings us to Dennis Wideman.
There’s going to be a hearing in Toronto on Tuesday afternoon to consider the case of Wideman vs. The Linesman, in this case, Don Henderson. Everyone’s going to be there, from Brian Burke and Brad Treliving to NHLPA representatives to league officials to Wideman and, one would expect, Henderson.
They may have to order out for extra coffee and doughnuts.
Wideman stands accused of intentionally crosschecking Henderson in the back in a game at The Saddledome last week, one of the stranger interactions these eyes have seen between a player and an official. Ever.
Pushed, shoved, punched – oh yeah, we’ve seen all that.
But crosschecked in the back? That’s a new one.
Then again, that’s not what really happened.
Of course, the outrage is pouring down over Wideman, with lots of folks howling for a 20-game suspension at the very least for his actions.
Well, that seems way, way, way too much for what actually happened.
Now, if you want to convince yourself that an angry Wideman snapped, saw Henderson and saw red at the same time, and decided he would deliver a crushing blow with his stick, sure, that would be outrageous. If that were the case, I’d give him 40.
Except it didn’t happen that way.
Let’s review. Nashville’s Miikka Salomaki had drilled Wideman into the sideboards moments earlier, and his head seem to bounce off the glass. Ouch. He reacted as though in immediate pain and/or discomfort, and looked momentarily like he was going to drop to his knees.
Concussed? Maybe. Dazed? Probably.
Now what the Officials Association and the NHL want you believe is that Wideman was so angered by this incident that as he skated to the Flames bench, spotted a convenient target in Henderson and decided to lay him out.
So after five years in the Ontario Hockey League, parts of two seasons in the American Hockey League and 809 NHL regular season and playoff games, the 32-year-old veteran defenceman decided to deliberately attack a linesman with his stick, a linesman who had nothing to do with the Salomaki hit or anything else that anyone has determined.
All of those games in all of those leagues, and Wideman, thinking clearly, made this decision and figured he’d get away with it unscathed.
That’s what some want you to believe.
To that I say, not a chance.
Here’s what happened.
Stunned by the Salomaki hit, Wideman knew he had to get off the ice. He head was bowed as he traced his way along the boards, hoping to get to his destination as soon as possible.
Then he was startled by an obstruction, in this case, Henderson. He didn’t strike out in anger. He was startled, and you can tell by the movement of his skates, he tried to quickly change course while extending his arms to push away from Henderson.
By the time he got to the bench, he was still woozy, unaware of what had happened.
But, unless he decides to confess on Tuesday, there’s not a chance he did it deliberately.
Now, some will argue intent doesn’t matter. He did what he did.
Well, to some degree, that’s true. Just as he’s responsible for his stick at all times, he was responsible for that collision with the unsuspecting Henderson. I’ll agree he deserves something.
If it had been a Predator he’d knocked down, he probably would have received an interference minor and Nashville would have received a power play.
But it was an official, and officials should be protected. They are non-combatants in a rough, violent sport. So it has become a matter for additional discipline, and because Wideman has to be responsible to some degree, something between two to five games would be fair.
But 10? Or 20? That’s absurd, unless somebody can explain why this veteran NHLer was motivated to commit this particular on-ice crime. Or, as I said, if he confesses.
If there’s some longstanding feud that has yet to come to light, sure, that might explain it. Or if there was confrontation of some kind earlier in the game. Or in another game. Or maybe they had an argument at the local grocery store over a parking spot.
Give me something. Otherwise, this was an accident involving an injured player desperately trying to get to the bench, wanting anything and anyone to get the hell out of his way.
That same night in a Colorado-Los Angeles game, Kings winger Milan Lucic punched linesman Jay Sharrers in the mouth. Not a knockout blow, more of a glancing shot. Go ahead and look it up on the Internet. Lots of video available.
Lucic isn’t getting called up on the carpet. No intent. An accident.
While more obvious and shocking, Wideman had no intent and it was clearly an accident.
Punish him if you must. But throw the book at him?
Unless this is about feeding the outrage, that punishment wouldn’t fit the crime.