Commissioner Bettman upholds Wideman's 20-game suspension

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NEW YORK (AP) NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman upheld Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman's 20-game suspension for cross-checking a linesman.

The NHL announced the appeal decision Wednesday, and the NHL Players' Association said later that it would further appeal to neutral arbitrator James Oldham.

Wideman met with Bettman at a hearing in New York last week after the player appealed the suspension handed down Feb. 3 by NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell.

Wideman knocked down linesman Don Henderson during the second period of the Flames' game against Nashville on Jan. 27. Wideman was checked hard into the boards by Predators winger Miikka Salomaki. Wideman banged his stick on the ice, then knocked down Henderson in front of the Nashville bench. Wideman said he was in pain and was just trying to get off the ice, adding that he couldn't avoid Henderson.

''I do not see a basis for a lesser penalty, particularly given the severity of the conduct involved,'' Bettman wrote in the decision. ''On the other hand, I have the authority to impose a more substantial suspension, and I am troubled by Mr. Wideman's total failure to accept any responsibility for his actions.

''Indeed, although he made much at the hearing about the apologies he had already made to Mr. Henderson, the sincerity of those apologies rings somewhat hollow given the text message he sent to a teammate on Feb. 2 - after the conclusion of the hearing before Mr. Campbell - that `the only problem and the only reason I'm here is cause the stupid refs and stupid media.'

''Nevertheless, in light of Mr. Wideman's prior exemplary disciplinary record, I decline to increase the suspension imposed by Mr. Campbell.''

The suspension is the second-longest in NHL history for abusing an official.

''We are extremely disappointed but not surprised that Gary Bettman upheld the decision of his staff to suspend Dennis Wideman for 20 games,'' the NHLPA said in a statement. ''This decision completely ignores the effects of the concussion that Dennis sustained when he was driven into the boards eight seconds before colliding with the linesman. We will appeal to the neutral discipline arbitrator in order to have this decision overturned.''