You have to wonder how the NHL Officials’ Association feels about the incident in Calgary Wednesday night involving Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman and linesman Don Henderson. It was a bizarre turn of events, to say the least.
In the second period of the Flames 2-1 loss to the Nashville Predators, Wideman took a pretty substantial hit in the defensive zone, then picked himself up and, as he made his way to the Flames bench, crosschecked Henderson from behind and sent the linesman tumbling to the ice.
Take a look at the incident here:
The crucial question here is whether or not this rises to the level of abuse of official. Because if it does, Wideman will find himself in a whole lot of trouble. The league does not look fondly on players roughing up referees and linesmen and comes down hard on miscreants.
According to Rule 40.2, which deals with abuse of officials, “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.)
Now this can be parsed all kinds of ways. Wideman apologized to Henderson during the subsequent TV timeout and emphasized after the game that contact with Henderson was incidental. “I was just trying to get off the ice and at the last second I looked up and saw (Henderson),” Wideman told reporters in Calgary. “I couldn’t avoid it. I didn’t know where to go or how to get out of the way of him.”
What remains is whether or not the NHL will take Wideman at his word. Because the video looks pretty damning. Wideman seems to see Henderson all the way back to the bench and appears to do almost nothing to avoid him. And when he gets close enough to Henderson, he drills the linesman from behind with what looks like a vicious crosscheck. Whether it was intentional or not, there is no dispute that substantial contact is made.
An email to NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, along with texts to NHL senior vice-presidents and director of hockey operations Colin Campbell and Mike Murphy were not immediately returned. Nor was a call to director of officiating Stephen Walkom. Since the incident involved an official, it would be handled by the league’s hockey operations department and not the department of player safety.
Stay tuned. We likely haven’t heard the end of this yet.