Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman has already served more than half of his 20-game suspension for cross-checking linesman Don Henderson to the ice, but the veteran blueliner will get his chance to have the ban reduced this week.
The NHLPA announced Wideman’s appeal will be heard Thursday and Friday in New York City. Wideman, who has sat out the past 11 games, will have his appeal heard by James Oldham, who has been tabbed as a neutral arbitrator for the league since 2004.
After the incident between Wideman and Henderson occurred on Jan. 27, the league suspended the 32-year-old indefinitely. It wasn’t until after the all-star break, on Feb. 3, that Wideman was handed his 20-game ban. Wideman has already appealed the suspension to commissioner Gary Bettman, but he chose to uphold the ban, which set the table for Wideman and the NHLPA to take it to neutral arbitration.
In his appeal to Bettman, Wideman had asked for his entire suspension to be wiped away, claiming he was concussed from a hit by Nashville Predators Miikka Salomaki prior to making contact with Henderson. When Bettman upheld the 20-game suspension, he provided a ruling in which he stated a “significant suspension” was warranted, and added that accepting Wideman’s defense that he was concussed could “set a precedent that could be easily manipulated in the future.”
Bettman also wrote that he was “troubled” by Wideman not accepting responsibility for the incident and said the sincerity of the defenseman’s apologies to Henderson after the incident rang “somewhat hollow,” when paired with a text message Wideman had sent to a teammate. The message from Wideman said, “[t]he only problem and the only reason I’m here is cause the stupid refs and stupid media,” according to Bettman’s report.
Beyond the 20-game suspension, which is Wideman’s first of his career, he forfeited $564,516.20 in salary.
The Flames play at home Thursday against the New York Islanders before hosting the Ottawa Senators Saturday. If the appeal does not have a decision by the end of the weekend, Wideman will have missed 13 of the 20 games. If he misses the full 20 games, Wideman will not return until March 14. Since Wideman’s suspension, Calgary has gone 5-6-0.
Henderson has not worked a game since the incident with Wideman. There's uncertainty about his ability return to the ice this season, and it has been reported he is suffering from concussion symptoms.