Calgary Flames defenceman Dennis Wideman could be looking at a lengthy suspension following an incident in which he hit a linesman on his way to the bench in a game versus the Nashville Predators Wednesday.
Wideman took a bump from Predators forward Miikka Salomaki along the boards before making his way to the Flames bench. Linesman Don Henderson stood between Wideman and his path to the bench, and the blue-liner sent him to the ice with a cross-check.
Wideman defended his actions in the post-game scrum, saying he couldn’t avoid contact with Henderson. However, the 32-year-old defenceman could face a possible suspension in the range of three-to-20 games whether it was intentional or not.
Rule No. 40 in the NHL’s official rulebook deals with abuse of officials. There are three types of suspension that stem from abuse of officials and they are as follows:
40.2 Automatic Suspension – Category I - Any player who deliberately strikes an official and causes injury or who deliberately applies physical force in any manner against an official with intent to injure, or who in any manner attempts to injure an official shall be automatically suspended for not less than twenty (20) games. (For the purpose of the rule, “intent to injure” shall mean any physical force which a player knew or should have known could reasonably be expected to cause injury.)
40.3 Automatic Suspension – Category II - Any player who deliberately applies physical force to an official in any manner (excluding actions as set out in Category I), which physical force is applied without intent to injure, or who spits on an official, shall be automatically suspended for not less than ten (10) games.
40.4 Automatic Suspension – Category III - Any player who, by his actions, physically demeans an official or physically threatens an official by (but not limited to) throwing a stick or any other piece of equipment or object at or in the general direction of an official, shooting the puck at or in the general direction of an official, spitting at or in the general direction of an official, or who deliberately applies physical force to an official solely for the purpose of getting free of such an official during or immediately following an altercation shall be suspended for not less than three (3) games.
While it's ultimately up to the league to determine which if any measures Wideman will be subject to, Wednesday's incident involving Henderson would appear to fall under Category II.
Wideman addressed the incident following the game, telling reporters he saw Henderson too late to avoid contact.
“I was just trying to get off the ice," Wideman said. "And, at the last second, I looked up and saw him,” said Wideman 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 also said he apologized to Henderson and called it "completely unintentional."
Given the video evidence, Wideman may have a tough sell on his hands.