The NHL has come down hard on Dennis Wideman, as the Calgary Flames defenseman has been suspended 20 games for delivering a check to linesman Don Henderson.
The league stated Wideman's suspension falls under Rule 40, which is physical abuse of officials. Per Rule 40.1, which appears to be the guideline used in this instance, "(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.)"
As if the 20-game ban isn’t enough, the suspension will also cause Wideman, 32, to lose $564,516.20 in salary, all of which will go to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund. Prior to this suspension, Wideman had never been fined or suspended by the league.
Wideman’s suspension means he’ll be out of the lineup until Mar. 14, and miss crucial games as the Flames attempt to make up some ground in the Pacific Division and earn themselves a playoff berth.
According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, the suspension “will likely be appealed”, and ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun added that if Wideman appeals to commissioner Gary Bettman and the suspension is still six or more games, he’ll be able to then appeal to a “neutral arbitrator.”
The incident between Wideman and Henderson occurred Jan. 27 in a game between the Flames and Nashville Predators. After Wideman had been checked by Nashville’s Miikka Salomaki, the Flames blueliner skated towards the Calgary bench and ran into Henderson, shoving him down to the ice before taking a seat on the bench.
Henderson was hospitalized following the incident and remained there until 5 a.m. on Jan. 28, according to Sportsnet’s Eric Francis. Henderson underwent concussion protocol and was dealing with neck pain and nausea.
The league had suspended Wideman indefinitely following the incident and were able to take their time reviewing the play given that it came as the Flames headed into the all-star break. Wideman’s hearing with the NHL’s Hockey Operations department came Tuesday, and was also by Henderson. Also at the hearing, according to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston, was Flames GM Brad Treliving, assistant GM Craig Conroy, president of hockey operations Brian Burke and the NHLPA’s Mathieu Schneider and Don Zavelo.
Wideman has two goals and 19 points in 48 games this season and has been a solid second-pairing blueliner for the Flames.
In a move to fill Wideman’s place during his ban, the Flames have called up defenseman Jakub Nakladal from the AHL’s Stockton Heat. Nakladal has two goals and 14 points in 35 games for the Heat.