Independent Arbitrator James Oldham has ruled the suspension to Calgary Flames Defenceman Dennis Wideman be reduced from 20 to 10 games for making contact with Linesman Don Henderson in a game January 27th against Nashville.
Nothing can be done to recoup the 19 games Wideman sat out, but the Flames blueliner will be refunded $282,258.06 in lost salary. The League issued this statement in response to the decision.
“We are in receipt of Arbitrator James Oldham’s Opinion in the appeal of Dennis Wideman’s supplementary discipline suspension and reducing the suspension from 20 to 10 games. We strenuously disagree with the Arbitrator’s ruling and are reviewing the Opinion in detail to determine what next steps may be appropriate. We will have no further comment until we have completed our review. In light of and in response to Arbitrator Oldham’s Opinion, Mr. Wideman will be reinstated and will be eligible to participate in his team’s games, effective immediately.”
As might be expected, the NHLPA had a completely opposite reaction to the ruling.
“Given that it was undisputed that Dennis suffered a concussion mere seconds prior to his collision with linesman Don Henderson, we felt strongly that there should have been no discipline. Nonetheless we are pleased that Arbitrator Oldham found that the collision was not intentional and that the suspension was reduced to 10 games. We respect the process and the decision and we look forward to Dennis returning to the ice tonight with his teammates.”
The Flames are at home to Arizona and President Brian Burke has scheduled a 5:45 p.m. news conference which should be entertaining to say the least.
One of the more interesting aspects of the decision was the revelation that the “stupid media stupid refs” text Wideman sent was to former team mate Gregory Campbell. It’s not known whether Campbell, the son of NHL Executive VP of Hockey Operations- Colin Campbell, made league officials aware of the text. Or if the NHL discovered that evidence during it’s own investigation.
Below is the written decision by Oldham.
The Commissioner’s basic conclusion — that Wideman’s on-ice behavior resulting in Linesman Henderson’s concussion constituted physical abuse of an official calling for Supplemental Discipline for on-ice conduct — was correct. Also, the Commissioner’s use of League Rule 40 (“Physical Abuse of Officials”) as a framework for analysis was appropriate.
The Commissioner’s conclusion, however, that Wideman’s behavior constituted intentional action within the meaning of Rule 40.2, automatically triggering a penalty of not less than twenty games, is not endorsed in this appeal because, in my opinion, that conclusion is not substantially supported by the totality of the evidence presented to me at the NDA hearing.
In my judgment, the proper penalty should have been that specified in League Rule 40.3. Taking into account Wideman’s eleven years of discipline-free performance as a professional hockey player, there is no occasion to go beyond the ten game minimum specified in Rule 40.3. Dennis Wideman’s penalty, therefore, should be reduced from twenty games to ten games, andit is so ordered.