If Dennis Wideman is going to have his 20-game suspension reduced, it’ll be up to a neutral arbitrator to do so.
The NHL announced Wednesday that commissioner Gary Bettman has ruled on Wideman’s 20-game ban for his hit on linesman Don Henderson, and Bettman’s decision is to uphold the original suspension that was handed out to the Flames blueliner. Wideman has already served seven games of the 20-game suspension.
In a full ruling, Bettman stated the NHLPA argued Wideman had suffered a concussion following the check from Nashville Predators winger Miikka Salomaki that left Wideman “confused and/or physically incapable of avoiding contact with Mr. Henderson.” Due to the concussion sustained by Wideman, the NHLPA argued Wideman should have received no discipline “because Mr. Wideman's conduct was not deliberate and was not the result of any intent to injure.”
However, in his ruling, Bettman stated that neither doctor who testified on behalf of Wideman and the NHLPA, Drs. Jeffrey Kutcher and Paul Comper, examined Wideman until several days after he suffered the concussion.
“The conclusions expressed by Dr. Comper and Dr. Kutcher were not based on what Mr. Wideman's capacity actually was at the time in question but about what his condition might have been,” wrote Bettman. “Those conclusions were based on little more than Mr. Wideman's own subjective report of concussion symptoms that he may or may not have actually experienced.”
Later in his ruling, Bettman stated that reducing Wideman’s suspensions on the ground he was confused, lost his balance or lacked impulse control due to concussion would “set a precedent that could be easily manipulated in the future,” and potentially make the game more dangerous for players and officials.
Bettman added that he believed a “significant suspension” was appropriate, and that he didn’t see “the basis for a lesser penalty, particularly given the severity of the conduct involved.” The commissioner added he had the ability to hand Wideman an even more significant suspension, too. Bettman wrote he was “troubled” by Wideman not accepting responsibility.
“The sincerity of (Wideman’s) apologies rings somewhat hollow given the text message he sent to a teammate on February 2 — after the conclusion of the hearing before (NHL director of hockey operations Colin) Campbell — that ‘[t]he only problem and the only reason I'm here is cause the stupid refs and stupid media,’ ” Bettman wrote.
According to numerous reports, Wideman and the NHLPA will be taking the case before a neutral arbitrator. No date has been set for that hearing.