NHLPA appeals Dennis Wideman’s suspension, cites medical evidence

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. 



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.”

Emphasis mine.


To recap:

  • 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.

  • RKD

    Appeal?? Appeal a LIGHT sentence of 20 games?
    He didn’t grab his head, he pushed his lid up out of his eyes.
    Was he concussed? NO.
    He was thinking clearly enough to tap his stick on the ice to signal a line change.
    This indicates he knew exactly where he was on the ice.

    He refused to follow concussion protocols because he didn’t HAVE a concussion.

    He was mad about getting hit and he took acted out in anger.
    And did something GUTLESS.

    The next thing will be reports of Wideman checking in with specialists due to headaches and nausea…
    Trying to justify exploding into a ZEBRA.

  • wot96

    Just as I suspected, medical evidence suggests a legal excuse for his actions. And for those of you that have never had a concussion and have no idea what it can do to you – just shut it, right now. If he had a concussion, there is a very good chance he was barely functionally and on autopilot.

    Now it gets interesting.

    Why wasn’t the concussion protocol followed?
    Isn’t it mandatory?
    If it is mandatory, what is the explanation for failing to follow it?
    If it is not, why not?
    Who overrode the spotter?
    Why?

    • Cfan in Vic

      The concussion protocol was not followed because he didn’t and doesn’t have one. It’s really that simple.
      He PLAYED the rest of the game.. And then magically developed a concussion?

      So him tapping his stick for a line change doesn’t indicate a lucid mind?

      Do you think he does that when he wakes up in the middle of the night and goes for a pee?

      • McRib

        You don’t make a lick of sense. Don’t be stupid.

        The fact he played the rest of the game doesn’t mean a thing. You don’t think you can carry on playing if you have a concussion? Christoph Kramer played 15 minutes of the World Cup 2014 final (which he doesn’t remember at all) after sustaining a head shot and was concussed to the point he repeatedly asked the ref if it was the Final or not..which led to him being subbed off. He played fine as well, no one could tell he had a concussion. You’re a joke

        • RKD

          stand up for him all you want… The NHL let him off the hook and the flames want to reduce the sentence.
          THAT is the JOKE!
          It’s clear as day in the replay he knew exactly what he was doing.

          • wot96

            1. The NHLPA intervened to file the appeal, not the Flames.

            2. Of course the team will appeal if it thinks the punishment is excessive.

            3. If you think a medical professional will mis-diagnose in order to help out her/his employer (the Team) you don’t understand the medical ethics involved.

            All in all, you are demonstrating a near complete ignorance of context in order to peddle a line that suits your personal narrative – which seems to be ABC – anyone but Calgary. That’s okay, i get you hate the Flames and/or Calgary. Just be sensible about it.

            If you want a conspiracy, you would probably be better off looking at the League itself for “over-punishing” Wideman knowing that the NHLPA would step in, especially if there was medical evidence.

          • McRib

            A medical professional will NOT mis-diagnose a condition??
            Clearly you’ve never been to Ft McMurray

            Every Coker shutdown there’s reams of guys that come down with pneumonia…

            In July

            Must be a flu………..

            But it has nothing to do with the diagnosis they received in the Syncrude medical wing of the Ft McMurray regional hospital.

      • MontanaMan

        Your comments are ignorant of a medical condition. A physician examined the player and apparently diagnosed him with a concussion. This is not a self diagnosis. Anyone who has suffered a concussion (and I have) can tell you that the person concussed is the last person able to accurately diagnose the problem.

        • T&A4Flames

          Yes, and I’ve had concussions as well. However, i fully believe the diagnosis of concussion was made simply to allow a thin defence for a deplorable action.

          • MontanaMan

            You are such a fool saying that. The NHL looks at doctor’s reports, whether they be after concussion protocol events or for player placed on or taken off IR. Otherwise a team seeking to avoid roster or cap issues would IR a player.

      • McRib

        “So him tapping his stick for a line change doesn’t indicate a lucid mind?”

        He had a concussion, he wasn’t completely brain dead…. Doesn’t mean vision wasn’t affected in the slightest. This couldn’t be more unrelated. Certain animals heads literally get chopped off and they still run around for awhile…

        • RedMan

          Having read your comment, I have resisted the urge to troll as that comment is LOADED with opertunity.

          However, he had the vision of clarity to notice where he was on the ice, his relation to the blue line and the presence of mind to reach the blue line PRIOR to signalling for a line change.

          And THEN he hit a striped shirt..

          The evidence is evident. End. Of. Story.

      • RedMan

        @Hugo

        The Ref finished the game then went to the hospital and has since been diagnosed with a concussion.Soooooo…..clearly there are differing levels,severity and the actual onset of concussions.It’s entirely feasible that Wides was concussed and the collision was indeed “completely accidental”.

        • RedMan

          This has nothing to do with the zebra being hurt.
          He’s impartial to the game and will not be touched.

          Those are the rules.. He’s a non combatant.

          I’m sure that the ref’s union had to plat that card too as we don’t want it to be open season on them.

        • RedMan

          Read above.

          The zebras will protect themselves the only way they can.
          They (and the league) will play the safety card and put this in the locker rooms of 30 teams.

          Don’t not hit the ref…. Ever

          • RedMan

            You’re missing the point. How can you say that Wideman wasn’t concussed because he finished the game when the Ref was also concussed and finished the game?

            You’re contradicting yourself.

          • McRib

            Haha,
            Awesome!
            Thanks for that.
            Do you regularly disparage people with brain trauma?

            Concussions are an ugly enemy and I truly hope you and yours never have to fight that fight.

          • RKD

            Sorry, I should have asked that you read a little farther up.
            The point I’m making is neither Wideman nor the Ref have a concussion.
            This is classic ” union vs. Union”
            The player has to “pretend to be hurt” to lessen the penalty
            The ref has to “pretend to be hurt” to insure the player is taken to task for abusing the ref.
            The refs will always have a say in the length of suspension and the league is well aware of this.

            Cuss and swear, spit, degrade a zebra in any way… This is what happens.

            They’re a non combatant they did not ref the game expecting to be hit.

          • wot96

            I did read farthur up..didn’t see the “both don’t have a concussion” part.

            Clearly you’re insane: The ref hasn’t worked and can’t work for another week to 10 days….how deep does this Union vs Union,behind the scenes cloak and dagger charade go? All the way to the top?…Like to the President?

            “The refs will always have a say in the length of suspension and the league is well aware of this”
            -So why do they need to pretend to be hurt?

            “They’re a non combatant they did not ref the game expecting to be hit.”
            -There isn’t a game being played anywhere,right now,where the Zebra isn’t getting hit by either the puck,players,ice girls or each-other.
            Or breaking up fights (Lucic punched a ref in the face the other night)
            I think they know that there is a reasonable chance they will/could get hurt by a hit however intentional or not.

            So what you are saying is Wideman was in full possession of all his faculties and was not concussed..he did it on purpose and then this Theatrical Performance with a cast of Lawyers,Directors,Hospitals,Doctors,players,Refs,Union Bosses,PR dep’ts, and extras began?

            Wait…is this the plot to the movie “Concussion”?

          • RKD

            i started out the response to this with insults… But then decided to reword it.

            The ref clearly won’t work as he’s being paid as a part of the Union and its a weekly wage. He is paid already. Why put him to work in the event he may have a hang nail?
            It’s a guaranteed contract.
            Why not sit him as all the other linesmen sit as well?
            Henderson is not the best linesman in the league.

            Why would he pretend?
            Because it strengthens the refs position in inforcing the length of the suspension applied to the player.

            Yes, they will get hit with pucks, sticks, and entangled in the occasional check along the boards.

            Do they all need to face cross checks to the back?
            Do you really think this is something a NON COMBATANT should ward against?

            Do I think he hit him cuz he was pi$$ed about a call that he should not have got anyway?

            You bet your ass I do.

            AND THE RESULTING B.S With the doctors and the lawers and the refs and the union bosses and the PR department and the media and all the rest of it….

            That’s the damage control.

            or…. Are you clearly insane?

          • The GREAT Walter White

            Sorry..I have to log off.My phone just rang..no one was there and there’s a strange Sedan idling outside….

            Run Hugo….they’re onto us!!

            /silencer gunshot sounds

      • T&A4Flames

        Hey smart guy, the ref was also diagnosed with a concussion AFTER THE GAME. Youve clearly never played sports in your life so maybe stop making yourself look like an self righteous idiot.

  • wattree

    It’s troubling if they didn’t follow protocols, but having a concussion shouldn’t absolve him of guilt. Chris Simon was concussed by Ryan Hollweg a few years back just before Simon hit him with his stick and he got 25 games. It’s like claiming you were too drunk to know what you were doing.

    Who isn’t going to intentionally fail a concussion protocol test to avoid a suspension?

    • McRib

      I’ve had 15-20 concussions and this is fairly insulting (nothing against what you said personally, I’m more insulted on societies lack of knowledge for concussions)…. Concussions have literally robbed me of years of my life. It is absolutely obvious for anyone who has had a concussion, especially on the reverse angle that he had a concussion on the play (his eyes weren’t tracking properly). Plain and simple you don’t think properly after a Concussion, whether you don’t think its an excuse or not, thats the facts. Its not the same as like making the choice to get drunk when you know the consequences ahead of time. Often people don’t even know they have had a concussion until afterwards….

      I think he and the Flames (more on the Flames) mishandled the situation incredibly. Apparently the concussion expert told him to leave and he didn’t so I think thats where he gets 20 games instead of 5-10, but that shouldn’t have been his decision to make that should have been on the Flames.

    • McRib

      No one on this site is arguing the fact that he injured a linesman and should be held accountable to some account in the slightest… I don’t even think Wideman is surprised he received a suspension of some sort…. But at least we aren’t blindly ignoring medical facts for our sole hate for an opposing team….

  • RKD

    Great piece, Ari.

    This seems to be a case in which the interests of the team superceded those of the player in how it was handled, which is probably a big part of why the NHLPA is playing hardball.

    Eric Francis said on the radio that after Wideman was interviewed post-game, he went to the Flames’ PR person and asked if his answers were “okay.” If true, the Flames were coaching him on his answers, probably to cover their own asses for not instigating the concussion protocol.

    It’s this kind of thing that reveals that behind all the anger of lockouts and CBAs, the players’ interests and team’s/league’s interests are sometimes at odds on more than just slice-of-the-pie dollars. That the NHLPA is stepping up will make this look bad for the team and the NHL.

    Though the play always looked bad on video, Wideman’s record and common sense points to him not being with it (look at his eyes in that screen-grab of the video!). I’m less interested in Wideman’s suspension length, and more in the repercussions for the league on concussions.

  • RexLibris

    Excellent summation, Ari.

    This story is going to take a long time to unfold and if we’re fortunate some good will come of it via improved concussion directives.

    • RedMan

      I agree. And don’t get me wrong. I don’t like the flames, never have, but I do not want to see anyone(player of zebra) get hurt.

      There should be a third red light installed in every rink, link it to both benches.
      When someone isn’t acting correct. The light trips and the clock stops.. Medical staff is summoned and the player is escorted..

      I know it’s not perfect…. But I don’t want a concussion precedence set.

      Can you imagine:

      Chara is dumped in the corner..
      Bangs his head

      Gets up and smears your top player.. Oh, I was concussed
      Back out on the ice!!

      • McRib

        “I don’t like the flames, never have, but I do not want to see anyone(player of zebra) get hurt.”

        Get out of town I didn’t suspect any bias whatsoever!!!!!

  • RKD

    The eyes say it all, he was concussed albeit for a short time. If he could not discern the linesman from a Nashville player, he was certainly groggy. Knowing Wides he took the macho route to shake off a ‘stinger’ and later admitted to the media it was a shoulder/neck injury but his head hit the glass. He wasn’t going to admit that he had a concussion, didn’t go to the quiet room and follow protocol. He should have been taken to the quiet room. He’s got no prior history, if the PA has evidence he was concussed and didn’t follow protocol I could see Bettman reducing his suspension. 20 games is too much.

  • The GREAT Walter White

    The repeated defence of this obviously intentional act is embarrassing. Take your lumps and move on. Quit trying to defend an indefensible action.

  • RKD

    So if the NHLPA gets its way the next time a player gets flattened on the ice and no penalty is called, he has about 45 seconds (or as long as it takes him to remember where the bench is) to go absolutely nuts on the ice, assaulting whomever he wants. And all he’ll get is a 5 game suspension.

    Noice!

  • JohnyR

    Clearly he had his bell rung and wasn’t all there. Of all the bad and missed calls in the NHL (or any other pro league) has anyone ever purposely done something similar to a ref? Probably not. I doubt Denis Wideman is is the most demented, crazy, sociopathic goon to ever play the game.

  • wot96

    I know this might be a bit “grassy knoll”..

    But is there any video footage from another angle? It might be beneficial to see what Wideman was looking at.

    As for the “Concussion protocol”.. the spotter is suppose to radio the trainers if there are any visible signs of a concussion, from the press box. I don’t know about you, but already that doesn’t sound very promising. Concussions can be quite subtle most of the time.

    https://www.nhl.com/news/nhl-nhlpa-bolster-concussion-evaluation-process/c-779135

    I don’t know if I would hold the Flames training staff as accountable for this issue as I would the NHL.

    It seems there is a lot of grey area here.

  • wot96

    There are too many factors indicating that Wideman knew exactly what he was doing – he tapped his stick on the way to the bench indicating a change being the obvious one.

    But most importantly, he knew where to skate to find the bench. The linesman was directly in front of the bench and between Wideman and the bench door. How can Wideman explain that he never saw the linesman? The linesman was physically and visually between Wideman and the door.

    Wideman appealing the suspension means he does not understand the severity of his actions. And using excuses to lower the game suspension is both disingenuous and gutless.

    • Tomas Oppolzer

      Wideman getting to the bench isn’t evidence of him being cognizant of what he was doing. Something like getting to the bench would be like 2nd nature to a hockey player, something they don’t even think about. Have you not heard about people sleep walking and leaving their house while asleep. They weren’t aware of where they were going but managed to get out of bed, open the door, and leave.

    • Tomas Oppolzer

      I’m in the medical field, and know a fair bit about concussions.

      The fact that his story doesn’t line up with what is seen in the video actually supports the evidence of his concussion injury.

      A person with a concussion can operate a vehicle, and follow all the signs of the road sub-consciously, but have no recollection of their name, or where they are going.

      If in fact Wideman was diagnosed with a concussion, it’s quite possible for him to skate back to the bench, signal for a line change, all while being in a confused state, clouding his judgement and perception.

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