Judge rules against NHL, upholds arbitrator’s Dennis Wideman ruling

Watch as Calgary Flames defenceman Dennis Wideman runs over a referee after a taking a scary hit against the Nashville Predators. Dennis Wideman's 20-game suspension was upheld by the NHL after an appeal.

The Dennis Wideman suspension story has seemingly come to an end, at last.

Last season after Wideman was hit hard in the corner by Miikka Salomaki of the Nashville Predators, he struggled to get to his feet and back to the Flames’ bench. On the way and out of nowhere, Wideman shoved linesman Don Henderson from behind to get to the bench door.

Citing Rule 40.2, the NHL automatically suspended Wideman 20 games for abuse of an official. It’s the same rule that led to Anaheim’s Antoine Vermette receiving an automatic 10-game suspension this season, although Vermette’s slash wasn’t deemed to be as violent or deliberate as Wideman’s, so his was treated as a Category 2 infraction instead of a Category 1.

As is allowed under the CBA, Wideman appealed his suspension to Gary Bettman, who upheld the ruling. The NHLPA argued that Wideman had been concussed on the Salomaki hit, but Bettman ruled they hadn’t proven that fact.

Since the suspension was longer than six games, the NHLPA and Wideman appealed the ruling to an independent arbitrator, James Oldham, who cut down the suspension to 10 games after Wideman had already sat for 19 games. Oldham’s ruling to cut the suspension led the NHL to sue the NHLPA in a New York district court.

The league believed Oldham had overstepped his bounds since his ruling was supposed to solely be based on Bettman’s decision and not his own evidence and breakdown of what happened.

On Wednesday, the court ruled in favour of the NHLPA and upheld Oldham’s decision to reduce Wideman’s suspension to 10 games.

After the ruling, the NHL released this statement:

“We obviously disagree with the court’s decision today, but also recognize the very high judicial standard we needed to meet to disturb the arbitrator’s decision. While we believe we met that standard, we are prepared to turn the page and move on. We are hopeful that, if and when there is next an appeal proceeding involving supplementary discipline, the Neutral Discipline Arbitrator will properly apply the standard of review we and the NHLPA negotiated and agreed to in collective bargaining. That was clearly not done in this case.”

In Vermette’s case this season, after appealing to Bettman and having the commissioner uphold the automatic 10-game ban, the player and NHLPA chose not to turn to an independent arbitrator.