Dennis Wideman suspended 20 games for hit on linesman Don Henderson

It’s been a week since Dennis Wideman’s bizarre, fateful collision with linesman Don Henderson. Or hit. Or crosscheck. Call it what you will, but back on Jan. 27, the Flames blueliner did something illegal to an official, and now, he’s paying the price for it.

Wideman has been suspended 20 games for his actions. He will almost certainly appeal, but for now: that’s 20 games gone, and $564,516.13 in salary lost.

This is a huge suspension, but it’s not surprising that it ended up so big. This wasn’t a player-on-player hit; this wasn’t the NHLPA looking out for its own against another of its members. Wideman’s hearing had a ton of people involved, from NHLPA representatives to the NHL Officials Association to representatives from the Flames organization (Brian Burke, Brad Treliving, and Craig Conroy) to Wideman and Henderson themselves.

Wideman may or may not have been dazed, out of it, concussed, what have you will on the play. There’s likely no way we’ll ever know for sure, but the player himself never admitted to it, neither in real time – he remained on the bench for the rest of the game – nor in his apology afterwards. So perhaps Wideman just made a really poor judgement call, and it’s one that’s costing him, big time.

You have to respect the officials, and actions like Wideman’s – crosschecking a linesman from behind, sending him down to the ice and, ultimately, to the hospital – cannot be condoned in any way. Throw in the fact that there were two warring sides in this matter, and you were bound to get a big number no matter what.

What does this mean for the Flames?

Assuming the 20-game suspension holds up, Wideman won’t be eligible to return to the lineup until March 14 against the St. Louis Blues. This is, of course, assuming he’s still a Flame by then (which, in all likelihood, he will be: a suspension of this magnitude isn’t exactly going to make it easier to trade him). In case he isn’t, though, he’ll have served 13 games of his suspension prior to the trade deadline.

So if Wideman can win an appeal and get his suspension knocked down to 12-15 games or so, that leaves a glimmer of hope, and would allow him to return later this month, or in early March as opposed to the middle of it.

But for the time being, unless the Flames can get a roster exemption from the NHL – and for a 20-game suspension, it’s possible, although it doesn’t exactly cripple the team, particularly if he wins an appeal – they’ll be forced to essentially have a 22-man roster. 

The Flames already recalled Jakub Nakladal to deal with Wideman’s absence, which gives them seven defencemen for the time being. They’ll carry 13 forwards – so just one extra – rather than the standard 14.

Depending on any future trades, this could open up a spot for another Flames youngster. Kris Russell is an upcoming UFA, and it would be prudent to trade him; this would give the Flames room to bring up Brett Kulak or Tyler Wotherspoon, who Stockton Heat Head Coach Ryan Huska suggested could also be replacements.

Ultimately, it isn’t ideal to lose any player for so long. With the Flames completely unable to use him on the ice, Wideman is dead weight. But Wideman was far from one of the team’s better players to begin with, so there are silver linings to this entire situation. Nakladal will finally get his chance, and may even improve the backend; the same could be said for anyone else who may be able to get some NHL games in due to Wideman’s suspension.

  • CofRed4Life

    Not surprised it’s 20 games. I’d be surprised if he won an appeal, though a roster exemption sure would be nice. That would help out a great deal.

  • RedMan

    I sincerely hope wideman opens a can of whoopass on the NHL – dangerous headshot with no call, failed to initiate concussion protocol for BOTH wideman and the ref – how stupid that the ref finished the game, then later was diagnosed with a concussion? kinda throws cold water on the theory that if wideman did suffer a head injury, he would have said something and not finished the game.

    NHL looks bad on this one – failure to protect guys against head shots, failure to call penalties on the head shots, failure to blow the whistle and allow a player who is obviously struggling from a serious head-shot to get to the bench, failure to put both wideman and the linesman on concussion protocol.

    • RedMan

      You are correct. But he won’t because it will look bad for his team too. If he had shown up with his own lawyer and a medical specialist, then this would have been really interesting for both the team and the league. As it is, I think he went there on his reputation as a good guy and to keep his reputation as a team player.

      If the team had been thinking, they shouldn’t have made him available to the media afterwards. Of course, the team would say we let him speak to the media because we didn’t think anything was wrong.

    • Bob Cobb

      Really? Its abuse of an official, plain and simple, even the least knowledgeable of hockey fan would realize this…..than again maybe not since you obviously don’t get it!

  • Skuehler

    Deserved. League has to protect the officials and send a clear message as a deterrent. Man these guys make some serious coin.

    Wish that they would clamp down equally hard on hits from behind and hits to the head. This whole situation could’ve been worse.

  • slapshot444

    You gotta thick with all the people involved in the hearing they must have got close to why/how whatever happened. It basically came down to the arm extension / push after the collision as opposed to a bear hug to limit the contact. Bottom line is a brain fart by Wideman cost him big time. I suspect the number needed to be large to protect the officials going forward. I bet it comes down to 10 / 12 after an appeal. Then the statement is made by the NHl and the punishment is more appropriate. Funny how Raffe Torres can go around ruining careers before he gets a a big suspension and Wideman makes one bizzare mistake and it costs him half a mil. Thats Bettman’s NHL

    • RedMan

      that’s why I am hoping Wideman makes it blow up in the NHL’s face. there’s a big concussion fight brewing for all major sports, and so far the NHL just pays lip service to protecting the players.

      • Johnny Goooooooaldreau

        I never played in the NHL and have had at least 5 hockey related concussions including 3 of the kind where there is an explosion of light in your head followed by projectile vomiting.

        It is not just a professional sports “thing” so watch out what you wish for or there won’t be any contact sports allowed in our “liberal/NDP” country soon.

        Professional or amateur or whatever.

        • RedMan

          the symptoms you describe are exactly why i think Wideman didn’t do it on purpose, and in fact may not have even been aware of the fact that he did it afterwards.
          explosion of lights in the head followed by blacking out or going to tunnel vision, accompanied by a screaming in the ears and sudden nausea… plus, when people are concussed or rocked, you often get a strange flight or fight symptom that leads to irrational thoughts fears and decisions.
          I think he was heading to the bench under these conditions, saw someone at the last second blocking his escape, and shoved hi instinctively. Like Rhett said, NOBODY is stupid enough to crosscheck a ref on purpose.

          • Johnny Goooooooaldreau

            What I was talking about is that concussion doesn’t just happen at the professional level. It also happens to kids, and beer leaguers etc and that there are going to be far reaching repercussions for hockey and sport at all levels and ages soon.
            To the detriment of the sport, but not the quality of life of the non-concussed.

          • #97Train/McDavidCopperfield

            What about someone that has been a model citizen their whole life and then snap for one second? Should we let them away with what they did? He did it not with malice but he did it .Get over it already.He is guilty.

  • CofRed4Life

    The Calgary Flames are honestly a better team without Dennis Wideman. Hindsight is 20/20, but we should’ve pulled the trigger on a trade over the summer assuming there was some kind – any kind – of interest our there. Among the more negligible decisions that have come to affect the 2015/16 edition of the Calgary Flames (this is assuming management did NOT plan to miss the playoffs and draft high, which at this point is almost hard to believe) is the decision to play #6 in a top 4 role, with ample powerplay time. Even with the most favourable starts all the stats are against him – our powerplay, our WORST IN THE LEAGUE powerplay was anchored by Wideman, missing the net, sending the puck around the boards and down the ice. I get trying to pump his trade value, but at this point, the best way this whole Dennis Wideman fiasco can sort itself out is if we end up drafting top 5, at least, I’d even say top 3, anything else at this point given this season compared to last would be a step backwards for this franchise.

    Which might have been the plan all along.

    • RedMan

      “Similar mentality? how do you know the state of mind or thoughts for anyone, let alone these guys? the message i got is they won’t protect the players. if they wanted to protect the officials, why was the official allowed to finish the game before going to hospital?

  • piscera.infada

    Fair enough. It’s a suspension I understand (and agree with), although I understand the argument that it’s likely harsher due to optics and media run.

    This is the last thing I will say on “abuse of officials”, and I feel very passionate about this.

    If the league really wants to protect their officials, they need to make it illegal to throw punches once the officials are breaking up a fight. I understand the rhetoric that throwing a punch and hitting an official is, in fact, accidental, but that shouldn’t change anything. The officials have a job to protect players by breaking up fights. If you throw a punch when that is occurring, it should be a minimum 10 game suspension. As with a high-stick, you must be in control of your hands at all times–missing a punch is not an excuse.

    You want “bad optics” think about a official being hit in the face on a “missed punched” and being knocked unconscious. That’s bad optics for the league. If they want to “start a dialogue”, or “set a precedent”, or whatever, it needs to start with actually protecting the officials–not just one-off incidents that look poor and thus, get substantial media run.

  • Bikeit

    I figure Wideman was stunned and a bit mad about the hit seconds before. Then while he is going by the predators bench he really was not looking or thinking and was going to give a predator a little pop before heading to the bench. We see many players do this as they are heading to the bench. Then the realization was that oops it was a referee. 20 is very steep and 10 would probably have been more appropriate. The refs association probably put up a little stink behind the scenes and the NHL had to pacify.

  • CMG30

    If 20 games is what it takes to get players to sit up and take notice of the rule against interfering with officials, then all these other suspensions for different offenses are not doing what they’re suppose to be doing.

    Every hit to the head, every slew foot, every dirty dangerous hit should be 20 games minimum. If the NHL is serious about cleaning up the game then this is what they should be doing.

  • supra steve

    The rule seems pretty clear, it’s a 20 game susp.

    The argument that Wideman was in a fog from being hit, kinda holds no water as he didn’t undergo concussion protocol. That was an error that was made by the Flame bench/office (as well as Wideman).

    At the end of the day, this hurts Wideman and only Wideman.

    The Flames get to see what they have in Nakladal, that’s a plus for the club.

      • supra steve

        That was wrong too, the official should have been taken out of the game (just like Wideman should have). I agree with you on that. Who’s responsible for telling an official that he’s out of the game though? Players have the advantage of a coaching staff (and really the entire executive of the team, as I’m sure a call from BT to the bench could have ensured Wideman didn’t see the ice again on that night) to ensure that they get evaluated when there is a hit that leaves them seeing stars. Wideman should not have played again after that hit, that’s on the coaches/trainers in my opinion.

        I will stress again, the club isn’t really being punished here, it’s more like an opportunity to evaluate other players.

        Too bad for Wides, who had no history that would have predicted this–though he does now.

  • RedMan

    Honestly, I’m not overly interested in who’s right and who’s wrong at this point…..I gets Wideman off the power play (and off the ice for that matter) which is what I’ve been praying for all season long.

    • Christian Roatis

      I suspect some his cap hit is derived from bonus’ of one type or another so simply doing (5.25/82)*20 wouldn’t get you the true money lost. That’s my guess, at least.

    • CofRed4Life

      Per the CBA, he’s charged based on the number of days suspended vs. the number of days in the season. If he were a repeat offender, then he would be charged by number of games. I’m not sure exactly, but that’s what I read in my limited information search.

    • FeyWest

      I think:

      (a) you did your math based on games out of 82, rather than the number of days suspended (i.e. 20/82*5.25Mill ~ 1.28 mill;

      (b) the figure of ~563K in the article looks wrong to me. Even if one only counts the 20 games as being a suspension starting today and running through March 11, with the NHL season of 195 days the salary he loses looks to be a little over $1 million. It is higher if the suspension starts on the day the NHL announced he was suspended indefinitely pending a hearing.

      For his salary I’m going by which shows his salary at $5.25 million with no bonuses.

  • Christian Roatis

    Well deserve. A total doucher move.

    We all know NHL refs suck arse. He didn’t get a marginal call, is obviously hurt, gets angry and takes it out on the linesman. 20 games is the right call. It was completely intentional and he crossed the line.

    The saddest thing might have been listening to his BS excuses after the game. Piss off.

  • Colin.S

    This is exactly what I thought Wideman deserved.

    I don’t think that Wideman intentionally sought out an official after the questionable hit he took to hurt them. However what Wideman did to the linesman was 100% intentional. I know that when I ‘accidentally’ run into people I forcefully crosscheck them in the back. And then even if a crosscheck was somehow accidental, if you accidently run into something don’t you look back to see what you accidently ran into? Wideman never does, his focus is 100% infront of him, if he truly didn’t see him wouldn’t you think he would stop and see who he ran into?

    I don’t think Wideman is a dirty player and he never got up and sought out someone to run through. However he made an incredibly stupid decision when he saw the Linesman and this punishment fits what happened IMO.

  • CofRed4Life

    I am fine with the suspension…it sucks its a lot. but you don’t hit a official. The fact he extended his arms out in the hit instead of grabbing him as you’re supposed to doesn’t help. And even after he hit him, he made no attempt to check to see if the ref is ok, and just continued and skated away.

    In no sports league this is ok, regardless of the mental state of the player. The refs need to be protected in order to do their job confidently.

  • RedMan

    “But for the time being, unless the Flames can get a roster exemption from the NHL – and for a 20-game suspension, it’s possible…”

    I say, make a case to get a roster exemption in exchange for not appealing the suspension! This would be a win-win for the Flames as they can use a full roster and try out some prospects. Wideman at $6 mill salary for next year is virtually untradeable until next year TDL.

    • FeyWest

      ahahah you seriously expect the team to get a roster exemption?? Like, that would be minimizing the infraction that caused the suspension in the first place, because everyone can see it would be win-win. Wideman didn’t pull a Torres and hit a guy 2.5 steamboats too late in the heat of battle, he clocked a ref!

      NHL discipline is a joke already, suspending a guy for less than a quarter of the season for attacking one of its officials. They’ll be putting on the clown nose for sure if they reduce his penalty or otherwise benefit the team.

      • FeyWest

        Yeah but not allowing roster exemption for such a significant amount of games lost by Wideman would be punishing the team when it wasn’t the team who went out and hit the official (Unlike the Bertuzzi incident where it was both Bertuzzi and the coach responsible for this). If you’re saying this in the vein of how poor the NHL discipline is run then yes I would agree I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t give Roster expemption, but in my mind this would not be the correct decision.

        • Kevwan

          The team has got to have consequences when a guy totally loses it like that. It’s not as if some players waded into the crowd because some fans poured beer on them or something, this was a totally unprovoked attack by some guy that should have known better.

          Remember that high school football game in Texas (?) where two kids blindside a ref last year? They were kicked out, and the team was penalized too because that sort of thing was encouraged in their culture.

  • RedMan

    Based on the 20 games, it is obvious that the NHL groups involved thought he made the wrong choice, which is kind of obvious in the video replay. Wides was pissed that he got elbowed and just made the wrong decision in the heat of the moment. So now Hammy, Geo and Brodie should be getting the extra time on the PP, which is a silver lining. Actually, Hammy has a great shot so hopefully he gets the chance to push the offence. Based on the games I saw live, Kulak seemed to be a step ahead of Spoon in regards to providing the fast paced breakout and first pass that the top 4 guys offer, while Spoon is more conservative like the bottom 5 and 6 guys. I hope the Nak is in tonight just to change things up, but knowing Hartley, he will go to the warrior Smid. The team needs to transition 2 young d-men as part of the rebuild, we have a good top 4, lean on them and let the young guys play.

    Just my 2 cents from the armchair GM