The message has sounded loud and clear: Do not hit an official.
Calgary Flames defenceman Dennis Wideman was suspended 20 games by the National Hockey League Wednesday for colliding with Don Henderson and cross-checking the linesman to the ice in last week’s 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 verdict came down after Wideman, Flames president Brian Burke, Flames general manager Brad Treliving, assistant GM Craig Conroy and NHLPA representatives all met with league officials and Henderson himself Tuesday afternoon in Toronto for a 90-minute hearing.
Wideman 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 go to the hospital afterward to get checked out.
Wideman apologized to Henderson on the ice.
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.
The suspension ruling was made by NHL director of hockey operations Colin Campbell, who had the leeway to rule as he saw fit.
Wideman's absence leaves a significant hole on the Flames blueline until mid-March. Calgary begins its post–All-Star Game playoff push eight points back of Anaheim for the final seed in the Pacific Division.
"Guys gotta step up," said fellow D-man Kris Russell. "We've got a solid seven defence core. That's been our strength the past few years, but we're going to have to prove it now."
Late on Wednesday, the NHLPA filed an appeal on Wideman's behalf. The first appeal will go to commissioner Gary Bettman and if the suspension is still longer than six games, it would then go to an independent arbitrator.