There’s something fishy about the entire Dennis Wideman situation. It was an odd incident to begin with – there’s a reason we never hear about, let alone discuss, players crosschecking linesmen – but now, there’s a whole new factor to take into account.
Prior to Wideman crosschecking Don Henderson, he himself was hit, and grabbed his own head before making his way back to his bench. It was seconds after his own head was hit into the glass he encountered Henderson, and subsequently hit him.
The NHLPA’s statement of appeal for Wideman’s 20-game suspension cites “medical evidence” presented at the nearly-two hour hearing he had on Feb. 2. They almost certainly pertain to Wideman apparently injuring his head – even though he stayed in the game.
To review, in case you’ve forgotten, here’s the video of the incident:
Miikka Salomaki directly checks Wideman’s head into the glass. Wideman goes down, and upon trying to straighten up, reaches for his head. He then – still partially hunched over – begins to slowly make his way back to his bench. Henderson is in his way, but he doesn’t seem to realize it until the last possible moment, upon which his reaction is to crosscheck him. He then finishes going to the bench without so much as looking back.
It would appear sociopathic, were it not for the fact that Wideman had appeared to sustain a head injury moments before.
The NHL’s heralded concussion protocol in the Dennis Wideman case wasn’t followed. The concussion spotter called down to Calgary bench. 1/2
— Rick Westhead (@rwesthead) February 3, 2016
Source: According to NHL protocol, Wideman should then have been taken to quiet, distraction-free place & examined by doctor. He wasn’t. 2/2
— Rick Westhead (@rwesthead) February 3, 2016
Wideman stayed on the bench, and was out for his next shift two in-game minutes after the incident, which occurred about halfway through the second period. At no point did he leave the game.
Here’s the NHLPA’s statement on the suspension:
“We strongly disagree with the League’s decision to suspend Dennis Wideman. Dennis has played in 11 NHL seasons and almost 800 games without incident. The facts, including the medical evidence presented at the hearing, clearly demonstrate that Dennis had no intention to make contact with the linesman. An appeal has been filed on the player’s behalf.”
After the game, Wideman was diagnosed with a concussion by the Flames team doctor: source
— Rick Westhead (@rwesthead) February 4, 2016
- Wideman was hit in the head.
- There was a call for concussion protocol to be followed. It was not.
- The NHLPA presented medical evidence on Wideman’s behalf at his hearing – almost certainly his diagnosis of a concussion.
This is, put simply, an extremely bad look on both the Flames, and the NHL.
The NHL was put in a tight corner for this situation. Officials are not to be hit; when a player targets an official, as Wideman appeared to, there needs to be hell to pay. That hell was doled out in the form of 20 games, which is an extremely lengthy suspension by NHL standards. This way, the NHL likely attempted to appease the NHLOA, while probably knowing an appeal on the NHLPA’s behalf would be coming in order to reduce his suspension.
That’s a win-win for the NHL: they appease the Officials Association, while later making nice with the Players Association, and in theory, everybody is happy.
Except the NHLPA clearly isn’t, and if what is being alluded to is true, then there’s good reason for them to be upset with both the NHL and the Flames.
If Wideman needed to be checked out via concussion protocol – and considering how he was diagnosed with a concussion after the game, that’s not even an “if”, it’s a “definitely” – then the Flames were negligent in not doing so. It wouldn’t have changed the fact that Henderson was hit, but it would have changed how Wideman’s health was handled after the fact, not to mention given more credibility to his own argument and declaration of no intent.
According to Elliotte Friedman, Wideman declined to be checked for a concussion.
This doesn’t matter. Wideman is a prideful professional athlete. You hear all the time about hockey players “playing through pain”; the entire hockey community really, really loves the notion, calls it heroic. That means the opposite – admitting you have an injury and removing yourself from the game – is shameful, to be frowned upon, weak. Wideman, who was already of questionable mind – having just been concussed and crosschecked a linesman – is in no position to make that call for himself, not even under normal circumstances.
It’s on his organization to be better than him, smarter than him, in this scenario. (The Flames’ own statement on the issue, for the record, doesn’t mention a concussion at all.) Wideman doesn’t want to leave the game to be checked out? Too bad, Wideman doesn’t get a say in it. That’s the attitude that has to be taken regarding athletes with injuries, particularly head trauma. If they won’t remove themselves from the game, then someone else has to, for their own ultimate good.
The Flames did not do that, which is negligent on their behalf. The NHL does not appear to treat concussions seriously, which is extremely negligent on their behalf – particularly as more former players are joining a lawsuit against the NHL for failing to protect them from concussions.
And in the midst of all this, we have a prime, highly publicized example of the NHL and an NHL organization failing to protect a player from a concussion in the middle of a game – and then suspending him 20 games for actions almost certainly caused as a result of it.