How the NHLPA let down Dennis Wideman

In the second period of the game between the Calgary Flames and Nashville Predators on Jan. 27, Flames defender Dennis Wideman made contact with linesman Don Henderson. The contact was sudden and violent, Henderson went down hard, and since that game ended, the hockey world has endured a lengthy and convoluted discipline process.

It’s been more than three weeks since the incident and Wideman’s suspension length is still subject to another appeal hearing (having gone through two hearings already). And the blame for that primarily has to fall on the group that’s supposed to have his back the most, the National Hockey League Players’ Association.

THE NHLPA’S ROLE

Let’s back up a bit.

The NHLPA is a union. It represents the NHL’s many, many players – its membership hovers around 900 depending on how you count injured players – and its primary concern is advocating for the interests of the players. That means being concerned with days off, player safety and primarily – based upon the labour disputes they’ve been a part of – player compensation and the economics of the game.

When you boil it down and take an extremely cynical view of its role: the NHLPA exists to make sure players get paid fairly, and to minimize the amount they get fined (and if that happens, make sure it happens in a transparent manner).

THE WIDEMAN SITUATION

In the case of Wideman’s situation, the NHLPA’s role is primarily to advocate on behalf of the player and to advise and represent them during the disciplinary process. Functionally, that means trying to minimize the suspension and fine (and also to some extent any reputational damage the incident may have caused, as that also can factor into future contracts he may get). It behooves them to ensure none of their membership is thought of as “dirty” players.

Of course, it’s admittedly a challenge to minimize reputational blowback when the incident looks like this.

You basically have two tactics available when something like this happens: own all responsibility for the collision, or completely try to avoid it.

FEW “GOOD” OPTIONS

Wideman was suspended indefinitely by the NHL on Jan. 28, the day after the incident, pending a hearing with Colin Campbell (the head of Hockey Operations). The NHL’s justification for the suspension has been a mixture of Section 28 of the CBA (Supplemental Discipline) and Playing Rule 40. Long story short? They can review and suspend a player for any incident, regardless of whether they were penalized for it in-game, and that contact with officials is a gigantic no-no.

It’s impossible to argue that Wideman didn’t make contact with Henderson, so the discussion about whether to fight the suspension (and to what degree) really hinges on your ability and willingness to fight a battle regarding the intent of the hit and Wideman’s degree of responsibility and culpability for his own actions.

And here’s where the failure of the NHLPA to effectively advise and represent comes into play.

THE WRONG CHOICE

Is it reasonable to expect Wideman to be aware of the larger implications of a particular line of defense? Probably not, his primary job is to play hockey. But the role of the NHLPA in a situation like this one is to advise and protect their player’s interests. 

The NHLPA should definitely be aware of the ongoing concussion lawsuit that the NHL is embroiled in, especially given how many former players have gotten involved in it. And they should have definitely known that going with a defense of “he didn’t know what he was doing, he had a concussion” would elicit a very tactical, aggressive response from the NHL. 

In addition, on the same evening that Wideman collided with Henderson, a linesman got smoked by Milan Lucic during a fight. Given two official-related incidents on the same night, the league may have been concerned about pushback from the NHL Officials Association if the suspension was too lax. Particularly given the violent nature of the contact and how viral the clip went, the league was basically put in a situation where they absolutely had to send a message that their officials are off-limits.

First, the NHLPA really shouldn’t have led Wideman down the road of a “he was concussed” defense unless they felt it was a fight they could win decisively with a well-constructed, air-tight defense.

And by “air-tight,” I don’t mean having two
concussion specialists interview him over FaceTime several days after
the fact; I’m talking about bugging the Flames medical staff for whatever documentation they had and dragging as many medical personnel that were
directly involved in Wideman’s treatment that night as possible into the
hearing room to provide first-hand accounts. While it’s impossible to
really know how messed up Wideman was when he collided with Henderson,
an effective concussion/diminished capacity defense would need to
establish a general idea of how woozy a player could be in that
situation and link it in with testimony from the individuals that worked
with Wideman that night to place him within the range that they established. 

If they couldn’t find a smoking gun from that night that could strongly paint Wideman as concussed and of diminished capacity, they never should have gone down this road.

Second, the NHLPA really should’ve known that the NHL – given their current circumstances facing a high-profile concussion lawsuit and the ongoing concerns of the league’s officials for their safety – would try to fight any concussion defense tooth and nail unless the medical evidence was comprehensive and overwhelming. (And even then, they’d probably still fight it hard just for the optics of the situation.) The defense as reflected in Bettman’s report – consisting of interviews with Wideman over FaceTime and seemingly absent of any direct or day-of-incident examinations of the player – was neither comprehensive nor overwhelming, and made things seem (from the outside) hastily put together.

All going with the concussion defense in the manner in which they did accomplished was prolonging this process and ticking off the NHL – I can’t be the only one that read the “text message” part of the Bettman decision as anything but a big middle finger to Wideman for making them go through three weeks of agonizing and time-consuming work.

A BETTER OPTION

Let’s be honest here: as soon as Wideman returned to the bench rather than scrambling over to Henderson and apologizing profusely on the ice, he was going to get suspended. There’s no questioning that. But the NHL’s agenda right now with the Wideman saga is two-fold: (1) to make it abundantly clear to its players (and fans) that their officials are completely off-limits to contact (aside from incidental or accidental contact during the flow of the game) and (2) to completely cover their own asses in regards to the concussion lawsuit they’re involved in.

Once the story blew up, with social and mainstream media playing the hit repeatedly, the best option for Wideman was probably to throw himself before the mercy of the court because public opinion was already against him. Similar to a “no contest” plea in legal cases, if Wideman had merely gone out before the media after his initial indefinite suspension had been announced and profusely apologized, stated that officials are off-limits and that he screwed up in the heat of the moment, and that he would accept whatever consequences the league felt necessary, he’d be playing by now. The league wouldn’t have had to have multiple hearings, or had to put together a 26-page report in anticipation of its examination by neutral arbitrators and concussion lawyers. The message would have been sent for them, and Wideman wouldn’t need to be made an example of.

I’m sure the NHLPA does a lot of things very well in the course of advocating for players. Heck, they get guaranteed contracts and pretty damn good money, so the union must be doing something right. But they completely failed Wideman in this situation by giving him some really shoddy advice, and undoubtedly that advice cost him a bunch of games played and a big chunk of money.

  • wot96

    Exactly right.

    The NHLPA probably got it wrong even earlier by not strengthening the concussion protocols in the CBA. Seems like everyone is getting it now

    Good article, Ryan.

  • Daves Waves

    Well stated. The whole situation blew waaaaay out of proportion with all the media hype about the hit, and all these non-hockey related so-called “experts” on TV rambling on about how much Wideman should be punished for “assaulting” a referee. Like you mentioned, Lucic gets away clean for punching a linesman in the face, Kassian gets away clean for punching a linesman in the chest, and then BAM, Wideman gets 20 games. That’s a quarter of a whole freaking season. Where’s the fairness here? Is NHL even doing its job or are they openly discriminating for some bizarre reason?

    I just don’t get it.

  • supra steve

    Dennis Wideman did a BAD, BAD thing. Was his judgement clouded after he was hit?…Perhaps

    What he did does not make him a terrible person, but if he misses 20 games, BFD, he still gets to play 62 games this season and “earn” his $5,000,000.

    I think the PA has bigger issues right now than Wideman. Issues like a few players earning $10 million a year while their team mates (who are also PA members) make $900,000.

  • Colin.S

    The NHLPA failed Wideman? The Flames and Wideman himself failed Wideman more than the NHLPA has.

    The Flames should have followed Concussion protocol instead of Hartley saying that if a player says he feels fine than that player can go back out, especially when NHL spotters saying that he should have gotten checked out. And ESPECIALLY when the GM/scouts in the box sees the replay of what Wideman did they should have called down and have Wideman yanked immediately and asked him what the hell was going on. Hitting an official should have been a huge red flag that something was wrong with the guy.

    Same with Wideman, if he wanted to use the Concussion defense, maybe he should have tried to act like he had one.

    Maybe the NHLPA could have done more, but the Flames and Wideman did more damage themselves during that game than the NHLPA could have ever hoped to fix after it.

    And most importantly, Wideman could have not crosschecked a linesman from behind. I get he was pissed he didn’t get a call and probably felt he got hit by a cheap shot or something. But at the end of the day Wideman was responsible for his own actions.

    • RedMan

      “I get he was pissed he didn’t get a call and probably felt he got hit by a cheap shot or something”

      all of your argument stems from your ASSUMPTIONS as noted above.

      let’s just say for a second that Wideman WAS disoriented, possibly skating with his eyes closed… OK I KNOW you don’t believe that, but what if it were true? WHAT IF? how would you characterize it then? What if he was on the bench and not even aware that he hit a ref? Ya, you don’t believe it, but if it were true, how would that change your assessment of the penalty?

      Please, just take a minute to pay your own devil’s advocate…

      and as noted above, there were the other two attacks of the refs w/o any punishment, plus this hit which is worse in my opinion…

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8W3hCWDHIzE

      • Colin.S

        What if his eyes were closed? What if that was true? That might be the dumbest argument I’ve read. That would be the equivalent of this scene from the simpsons: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OnDxxQugCI0 But instead of kicking\arm swinging Wideman goes around saying “I’m gonna be making cross checking motions and if you get in my way….”

        IF, and that is a big IF, Wideman was completely dazed and had blurred vision and didn’t see the Linesman I wouldn’t call for any punishment. But here’s the thing, WE’LL NEVER KNOW, because no one looked at him after the hit, the only check anyone did was Hartley asking him if he was okay and Wideman saying he was.

        And then saying that someone else got away with something so why shouldn’t Wideman? Come on, that’s a terrible argument. So should all the people who are head shotting people today not get a suspension because that’s how Scott Stevens built his career? Or that Cooke never got a game for ending Savards career?

        • First let me say that I’m not a huge Wideman fan and I think the team might be better without him. Offensive defensemen who bleed shots against but make the highlight reel now and then are my pet peeve.

          There’s this narrative though that Wideman was angry about the non-call in his own zone and then crosschecked Henderson deliberately. I just don’t buy it. In the clip, to me, he looks like the room’s spinning and he’s lashing out at a jersey that’s not red. A player would have had the awareness to not get rag dolled like Henderson did, but the idea of crosschecking a ref or linesman is so weird and so foreign that he was just completely vulnerable.

          Without a doubt I agree that the PA, the league, and the Flames have handled this poorly though. In my opinion, if you think a player attacks a ref then you throw the book at him and even prosecute outside of league jurisdiction, but this ain’t that. As for there being an open season on officials if Wideman’s case isn’t handled seriously enough, I guess I’d believe it if I saw it but it doesn’t make sense to me. I’m sure it’s happened because the league is old and hockey players are crazy but I can’t think of a single example of a player doing what everyone is saying Wideman did.

          Just my 2 cents.

          • Colin.S

            The room’s spinning and lashing out? Watch the video again, he never stumbles when he skates, he’s not falling over or looking around confused. He has purpose, he has a goal to make the bench. And look when he hits the linesman, barely even breaks his stride, for someone who you say the room is spinning he’s able to make a big crosscheck without so much as a small stumble.

            I also don’t buy the narrative that Wideman was angry about the hit and went to find an official and hit him as hard as he can. When you see Wideman skating he’s casually going back to the bench, he’s not rushing anywhere in particular, he’s not chasing someone down.

            I think that Wideman was frustrated, he was upset, he just took what he felt may have been a dirty hit/cheap shot or something else and when he was skating back to the bench he took out his frustration. He made an incredibly stupid decision in a split second. He might have just thought to push him out of his way out of that frustration.

          • When I watch the video I see a guy holding it together long enough to get to the bench, bumping into something that’s not a red jersey, and crosschecking it. To me, Wideman’s b-lining it for the bench after the hit is proof of innocence, not guilt. If he had any idea what was going on he’d have looked back or SOMETHING, at least just for optics. Instead he went and sat on the bench like it was another day at the office (weird exorcist eyes notwithstanding).

            I think your assessment’s fair, except that if we all agreed that he deliberately attacked a ref, we’d have stopped talking about suspension hearings and started talking about an actual court case a while back. If he actually attacked an official on purpose, don’t you think he should be in front of a real judge?

          • Colin.S

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BoNPm5YSfSU

            That’s a video of a guy trying to hold it together trying to get back to the bench. Wideman casually gets up and casually skates back to the bench. There’s no holding it together, what you see in him is frustration.

            The absolute leap of faith you have to go through to follow your premise is so crazy to even think about. He has the ability to skate with ease and call for a line change with a clear signal the bench recognized, but then he has to be so absolutely concussed/out of it as to not be able to tell the difference between a linesman and any other person on the ice, at the same time he can perform the best crosscheck I’ve ever seen and then not know he did it milliseconds later so he never checks what he bumped into but then is so completely fine that he has conversations with his coaching staff and goes back into the game minutes later.

            Just reading that paragraph makes my head hurt.

          • fretsey

            @Colin.S

            “he can perform the best crosscheck I’ve ever seen”

            You can’t cross-check someone with your stick vertical and your arms tucked in and hands shoulder high 12 inches apart at the butt end.

            Think what you will,at least state facts.This is the same garbage the stupid media is looping.

          • Colin.S

            Really? You can only cross check horizontally and you have to have your hands a certain distance apart of it doesn’t count? L O L

            Here, educate yourself:

            “59.1 Cross-checking – The action of using the shaft of the stick between the two hands to forcefully check an opponent.”

            It doesn’t say how much of the stick and it doesn’t say anything about the vertical or horizontal direction of the stick either. Wideman had both hads on his stick and used his hands and part of the shaft of the stick to forcefully hit the linesman, you can see this clear as day at :33 seconds into the video linked in the story.

            And his arms tucked in? Sure for maybe for a second before he FULLY extends them from the the follow through at :34 of the video.

            I can understand people trying to argue the concussion issue, that’s open to debate and I can see where they are coming from. But are you seriously suggesting that the crosscheck wideman does was some sort of little shove or something?

          • fretsey

            Good Grief,

            What’s the obsession with calling it a cross check? It wasn’t.

            If your hands are a foot apart at the butt end and your stick is vertical…what part of his back gets “the shaft”??????

            At worst it’s a “forceful shove” which can be argued regarding intent. I’m not sure how you can form intent solely on an action that is the end result of an accidental collision due to Henderson changing his angle (cue stutter step)

            Unless you are implying Wideman knew Henderson was going to cut him off and had formulated an intent to injure reaction prior to collision?

          • Colin.S

            If his hands are a foot apart and the stick is vertical but it’s still across the guys back, he’s getting the foot of stick not covered by Widemans hands that still across the Linemans back. It doesn’t matter if the Linesman gets 1 foot or 10 feet and it doesn’t matter if the guys stick is vertical or horizontal. Wideman took part of his stick and with two hands forcefully shoved it into the linesman back.

            So Henderson was skating backwards, was never more than a foot or two away from the boards and never drastically changed his direction but somehow cuts wideman off so suddenly that Wideman is now allowed to forcefully crossheck him to the ice?

            Compare the Wideman “shove” as you call it to what happened to the Ref in the Leafs vs Flyers game today that the commentator above mention, that’s how you would expect a confused/dazzed person to run into someone you don’t expect. What Wideman did was a stupid split second decision to forcefully crosscheck a linesman.

          • fretsey

            ok…I can’t argue if I don’t even know what a cross check is.I always thought that’s what they called the thing the defenceman do in front of the net to opposing players.

            I’ll also concede that there has never,ever been a situation where a player or ref changes direction at the last second and runs into another ref or player in NHL History.

          • Colin.S

            Neither of them change direction in any significant way, Henderson is skating backwards no more than one or two feet from the boards the entire time, Wideman is only slightly farther from boards. Neither one of them makes any last second movement or sudden change in direction. Show me where this massive change in direction comes from that spooks Wideman into viciously attacking a linesman. That small little step that Kerry Fraiser mentioned? That’s enough to justify a hit hard enough that sidelines the Linesman for the rest of the year?

            And here: http://www.nhl.com/ice/page.htm?id=68559#rb_cross_checking Since the NHLs rule book didn’t work for you, there is the NHL’s video rules on the different types of cross checking. So I guess the Oilers player won’t get a cross checking penalty cause his gloves were to close together? Or the Blues player on Langkow because his gloves were to close together and his stick wasn’t 100% horizontal either?

          • fretsey

            You are not even trying to see the difference or the point I’m trying to make.
            You are not even remotely trying to see what happens at the time of collision or how the collision occurred.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b68St5DGjiY

            Click on the gear icon,change the speed to 0.
            25 and view from the 11 to 15 second marks

            Watch Henderson’s head snap back before Widemans hands/arms even move forward.This was an accident,a result of 2 two hundred pound men colliding while traveling at different speeds from opposing directions in the span of seconds,literally.

            If this was an “attack” or a “vicious cross check” Wideman would have led with his stick and wouldn’t have bothered with the stutter step.

            Why is it so hard for you to admit that’s it’s possible it was an accident?
            When you use words like “attack” and “vicious” you lose any credibility.

          • Colin.S

            That video doesn’t help your argument at all. In Fact it makes it worse, because you can see just how far back Wideman begins bracing himself for the hit. With the back angle it’s hard to tell just how Wideman is positioning himself, with the front angle and how much you can see, you can really see how far back Wideman started getting his hands up to brace himself. If Wideman was already starting to brace himself as far back as just past the blue line (while Henderson was just crossing the red line) it throws the whole he didn’t see him till the last second thing out. If Wideman already was bracing for impact that far back he could have tried to avoid the impact, or just bear hugged him when he bumped into him.

            And I never said that Wideman was out to attack him. I even said that Wideman skates casually back to the bench, he’s not aggressively skating towards Henderson looking for some revenge. As Wideman skates towards Henderson he ends up making an incredibly stupid decision most likely out of frustration for any number of reasons (frustration at his bad season, frustration at being a 3rd pairing D, frustration at the hit he felt was a cheap shot, etc….)

            And yes the hit is vicious, it was on a completely unsuspecting individual, on a person in the game who is NEVER expecting a hit of that nature and of such force that the person is likely out for the year with an injury from that hit.

            Why is it so hard to admit it was an accident? Because no one has given any half decent evidence to PROVE it was an accident. You are trying to show some slight head movement that proves the whole sequence of events can be accident because of that, which doesn’t account for the whole event. Other people are trying to play up the concussion angle while ignoring all the things Wideman does or says that shows that he appears to be in control of his facilities (both before and after the incident). Or trying to play the games played and years in the NHL card that a person like that could never do that, which is stupid, just because he’s been in the NHL that long doesn’t mean he can’t make a mistake. Or that’s he’s never been a dirty player, not being a dirty player doesn’t mean he can’t make a dumb vicious mistake either.

            And then no one has brought up the fact the NHL had his text messages that show no remorse for the incident. If this was actually an accident, wouldn’t he care more about the fact that someone was hurt (and seriously hurt?) an the fact that the refs and media are the reason he’s in trouble?

          • fretsey

            Ok Colin,

            I’m confident in my own analysis and agree with Frasers’s take.

            You can’t remember what you’re saying from one post to the next.

            You have yourself a super day,m’kay?!

          • Colin.S

            You go do that, keep on telling your self that minor almost useeable head movements are proof that Wideman didn’t hit Henderson intentionally or any other action that Wideman took that shows his intentions better than a small head movement.

            I can’t remember what I’ve said from one post to the next, L O L. I’ve said consistently since the hit itself. Widemans not a bad guy, he didn’t get up to intentionally hurt a lineman or ref. However being frustrated, probably slightly concussed (we’ll never know to what degree) he made an incredibly stupid mistake and ended up hitting a linesman viciously due to a number of circumstances.

          • fretsey

            Post #34:Show me where this massive change in direction comes from that spooks Wideman into viciously attacking a linesman

            Post #43:And I never said that Wideman was out to attack him.

            you were saying?

          • KiLLKiND

            Out of curiosity have you ever been concussed or skated or done anything? From all of your arguments I’m convinced you think NHL 16 the video game is real life and that everyone can take a massive hit and be perfectly fine. Either that or you have some serious personal vendetta against Wideman.

            Whether Wideman was concussed or not I can’t say for certain but personally I think he probably was and there is a real good chance he did have his eyes closed.

            For 3 minutes put away all your preconceived decisions and give this a fair thought. Watching the video you can see Wideman bend over then stand up around the blue line. Once he stands up is exactly when I would’ve closed my eyes if I were him just to stop the ringing and spinning. I have been concussed from snowboarding and would regularly close my eyes after checking to see if the coast was clear. This is what it looks like Wideman did to me. Just before he hits the Henderson he probably opened them again and thought “oh shit”.

            Maybe he pushed Henderson harder than he should have but him not even looking back at Henderson is what really sells me on the fact that he was probably concussed. Imagine if you were an NHL player like Wideman who knows Don probably on a first name basis given that Wideman and Henderson have been in the league for years. He also just HIT A REF! I have never seen anyone in any league do this ever. Immediately after hitting Henderson instead of helping him up or apologizing he just heads straight to the bench. Now if your 5 million dollar paycheck depends on not getting suspended is this how you would act?

            Why the hell would Wideman? do such a thing? You say it’s because he got hit in the corner and was mad. Now what sounds far fetched you assuming Dennis Wideman, someone who has never done something even close to this, was so mad he decided to attack an official. Or thinking maybe he had a concussion and was really out of it?

            Oh I forgot to mention Dennis Wideman has been in the league for years. This hit and non call is likely nothing compared to the non calls he has received before this. So drop the there is absolutely no way Wideman was concussed act, because it’s a lot more reasonable than he was mad.

          • KiLLKiND

            Out of curiosity have you ever been concussed or skated or done anything? From all of your arguments I’m convinced you think NHL 16 the video game is real life and that everyone can take a massive hit and be perfectly fine. Either that or you have some serious personal vendetta against Wideman.

            Whether Wideman was concussed or not I can’t say for certain but personally I think he probably was and there is a real good chance he did have his eyes closed.

            For 3 minutes put away all your preconceived decisions and give this a fair thought. Watching the video you can see Wideman bend over then stand up around the blue line. Once he stands up is exactly when I would’ve closed my eyes if I were him just to stop the ringing and spinning. I have been concussed from snowboarding and would regularly close my eyes after checking to see if the coast was clear. This is what it looks like Wideman did to me. Just before he hits the Henderson he probably opened them again and thought “oh shit”.

            Maybe he pushed Henderson harder than he should have but him not even looking back at Henderson is what really sells me on the fact that he was probably concussed. Imagine if you were an NHL player like Wideman who knows Don probably on a first name basis given that Wideman and Henderson have been in the league for years. He also just HIT A REF! I have never seen anyone in any league do this ever. Immediately after hitting Henderson instead of helping him up or apologizing he just heads straight to the bench. Now if your 5 million dollar paycheck depends on not getting suspended is this how you would act?

            Why the hell would Wideman? do such a thing? You say it’s because he got hit in the corner and was mad. Now what sounds far fetched you assuming Dennis Wideman, someone who has never done something even close to this, was so mad he decided to attack an official. Or thinking maybe he had a concussion and was really out of it?

            Oh I forgot to mention Dennis Wideman has been in the league for years. This hit and non call is likely nothing compared to the non calls he has received before this. So drop the there is absolutely no way Wideman was concussed act, because it’s a lot more reasonable than he was mad.

          • KiLLKiND

            Out of curiosity have you ever been concussed or skated or done anything? From all of your arguments I’m convinced you think NHL 16 the video game is real life and that everyone can take a massive hit and be perfectly fine. Either that or you have some serious personal vendetta against Wideman.

            Whether Wideman was concussed or not I can’t say for certain but personally I think he probably was and there is a real good chance he did have his eyes closed.

            For 3 minutes put away all your preconceived decisions and give this a fair thought. Watching the video you can see Wideman bend over then stand up around the blue line. Once he stands up is exactly when I would’ve closed my eyes if I were him just to stop the ringing and spinning. I have been concussed from snowboarding and would regularly close my eyes after checking to see if the coast was clear. This is what it looks like Wideman did to me. Just before he hits the Henderson he probably opened them again and thought “oh shit”.

            Maybe he pushed Henderson harder than he should have but him not even looking back at Henderson is what really sells me on the fact that he was probably concussed. Imagine if you were an NHL player like Wideman who knows Don probably on a first name basis given that Wideman and Henderson have been in the league for years. He also just HIT A REF! I have never seen anyone in any league do this ever. Immediately after hitting Henderson instead of helping him up or apologizing he just heads straight to the bench. Now if your 5 million dollar paycheck depends on not getting suspended is this how you would act?

            Why the hell would Wideman? do such a thing? You say it’s because he got hit in the corner and was mad. Now what sounds far fetched you assuming Dennis Wideman, someone who has never done something even close to this, was so mad he decided to attack an official. Or thinking maybe he had a concussion and was really out of it?

            Oh I forgot to mention Dennis Wideman has been in the league for years. This hit and non call is likely nothing compared to the non calls he has received before this. So drop the there is absolutely no way Wideman was concussed act, because it’s a lot more reasonable than he was mad.

          • KiLLKiND

            Out of curiosity have you ever been concussed or skated or done anything? From all of your arguments I’m convinced you think NHL 16 the video game is real life and that everyone can take a massive hit and be perfectly fine. Either that or you have some serious personal vendetta against Wideman.

            Whether Wideman was concussed or not I can’t say for certain but personally I think he probably was and there is a real good chance he did have his eyes closed.

            For 3 minutes put away all your preconceived decisions and give this a fair thought. Watching the video you can see Wideman bend over then stand up around the blue line. Once he stands up is exactly when I would’ve closed my eyes if I were him just to stop the ringing and spinning. I have been concussed from snowboarding and would regularly close my eyes after checking to see if the coast was clear. This is what it looks like Wideman did to me. Just before he hits the Henderson he probably opened them again and thought “oh shit”.

            Maybe he pushed Henderson harder than he should have but him not even looking back at Henderson is what really sells me on the fact that he was probably concussed. Imagine if you were an NHL player like Wideman who knows Don probably on a first name basis given that Wideman and Henderson have been in the league for years. He also just HIT A REF! I have never seen anyone in any league do this ever. Immediately after hitting Henderson instead of helping him up or apologizing he just heads straight to the bench. Now if your 5 million dollar paycheck depends on not getting suspended is this how you would act?

            Why the hell would Wideman? do such a thing? You say it’s because he got hit in the corner and was mad. Now what sounds far fetched you assuming Dennis Wideman, someone who has never done something even close to this, was so mad he decided to attack an official. Or thinking maybe he had a concussion and was really out of it?

            Oh I forgot to mention Dennis Wideman has been in the league for years. This hit and non call is likely nothing compared to the non calls he has received before this. So drop the there is absolutely no way Wideman was concussed act, because it’s a lot more reasonable than he was mad.

          • You don’t need to link the video. We’ve all seen it plenty of times.

            What can I say? Bettman obviously agrees with you so you might as well add an appeal to authority to your appeal to common sense.

            EDIT: I was on my phone and didn’t want to click the video link. I now see it wasn’t the Wideman hit you were showing me. My bad.

    • RedMan

      I agree that the Flames failed here… and should and probably will pay for it somehow as well.

      when a player receives a head injury, it is stupid to rely on the testimony of the player as to whether he is concussed or whether he is fit to play. I mean, when a person just sustained a head injury, how could anyone expect him or her to intelligently and without bias assess themselves? it has to be taken totally out of the players hands. The head injury itself makes their judgement of no value…

      the league also failed the ref – how was HE allowed to finish the game before leaving with a concussion? that is serious egg on the NHL’s face in my opinion. everyone said, “If wideman was concussed, why did he finish the game” but then why did the ref finish the game? both exercised poor judgement… not uncommon when your judgement-making organ, the brain, has been injured. Wideman exercised a lot of poor judgement, something that he hadn’t done in 11 years, something that is common behavior for people with head injuries.

      • Colin.S

        The League failed the Linesman? How often do officials take hits like the one that the Linesman took? How many concussions do officials even get over the course of their career? The Linesman may never have had a concussion before and could have felt fine to finish the game or maybe just thought he was a little woozy from the hit and he’d skate it off. Is there even a concussion protocol for the officials like there is for the players?

        And the NHL is actually doing right by their offcials by giving Wideman the punishment he deserves, unlike the pathetic punishments they give to other players for ending each others careers.

        The NHL should probably look at this incident in case something as stupid as this happens to another official though.

        • RedMan

          how often do officials take hits like that? THIS official has taken 2 in the same year…

          you are right – we will never know – this is why it is not proper to asses a fine as if he did it on purpose. fine? sure – one that is reasonable.

          Burtuzzi broke a mans neck on purpose after chasing him down and got 20. Wideman shove an individual that appeared out of nowhere in front of him as he was trying to get off the ice, shoves the person away from himself instinctively, and gets the same punishment that the guy who intentionally almost killed a person gets…. doesn’t make sense.

          the REF is partially to blame for blocking the gate and skating into Wideman…

          • Colin.S

            That’s where you going with this now, We’ll never know if he had a concussion so we should probably not punish him cause he may have had one? Even though ALL of his actions speak to a man who was in control of his facilities? The NHL video did a fantastic job of explaining all the things that showed Wideman was more than aware enough of what he was doing to be held accountable for what he did. As well it missed what to me was my smoking gun, he NEVER looked back to see what he ran into, never looked at the lineman. If he was as confused and dazed as you claim, wouldn’t he have been slightly concerned as to what he ran into?

            20 games is entirely reasonable, in fact that that’s the default punishment right from the NHL rule book. It only seems excessive because the NHL fails time and time gain to hand out suspensions to players who injury other players with dangerous and illegal hits.

  • beloch

    I’m a little worried about the blow-back from the independent arbitrator’s decision. If he whacks Wideman’s suspension down to 10 games (or however many will have elapsed by the time of the decision), that will both piss off the refs (even more) and open a chink in the armor the league has put between itself and that concussion lawsuit.

    Is getting Wideman back earlier (when the AHL callups seem to be filling in just fine) worth the cost?

    • Parallex

      The better armor for the NHL would have been to have taken better care of it’s players both while playing and post-retirement.

      With regards to the article itself. The presence of a lawsuit related to concussions should have zero to do with whether the PA uses that in his appeal… it’s either the truth or it isn’t. If it’s the truth then he should use it if it’s not then he shouldn’t. Simple as that.

      Really it’s the Flames that failed here. They should have made him go to the back after that. I don’t care if Wideman said he was fine… he’s not a doctor he shouldn’t be self-diagnosing. The second the whistle went he should have been sent down the alley to get checked out. That they didn’t is just monumentally dumb.

  • fretsey

    This whole thing reeks of something other than what Wideman did.Maybe it’s the Lawsuit,maybe it’s the Union threatening Bettman….something was on a slow boil before the Wideman incident and unfortunately for Dennis,it boiled over.

    I’ve seen more efforts put into finding all and any camera views to establish if it was “a good goal” or when handing out a suspension for a “dirty” check between players.Every angle is scrutinized,blown up and exposed to the sheeple to show exactly why player x will be suspended for y games.

    I saw none of that in this case.A steady diet of the back angle shown on every conceivable social media platform,accompanied by completely false and sensationalist headlines such as “vicious crosscheck” or “ran him from behind”.

    I’ll defer to the great Kerry Fraser who shared his take on the “hit”

    http://www.tsn.ca/c-mon-ref-a-former-nhl-official-s-take-on-the-wideman-incident-1.429965

    There is so much reasonable doubt evident I find it hard to believe that Bettman can solely convict Wideman with Intent.

    The NHLPA let Wideman down.They had their own agenda and it’s obvious because they had a leg to stand on regarding Intent,which should have been enough to reduce the suspension and close the case at the first hearing.

    edit:I just stumbled across this… http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/trying-to-make-sense-of-dennis-widemans-harsh-20-game-suspension/

  • Schmenkley

    An interesting article Ryan, though I must confess the whole story is getting a little tiresome; I don’t think anybody will ever truly know just what Wideman’s thought process was at the time of the incident, short of him writing a book about it down the road.
    And I can’t help but think that there might be a long game plan at work here on the NHLPA’s behalf, specifically regarding the concussion lawsuit that is on the horizon, for their is ample evidence from just this incident, that NONE of the parties involved, NHL, the refs or the Flames, pay anything more than lip service to concussion concerns.

    • Schmenkley

      I would hope for a trade to give us a new team story, but the guy I most want to see traded (impossible with that contract tho) is at the center of this whole hassle…

  • The GREAT Walter White

    Please post the video of the Canuck cross checking the same official (if you have not done so already, I’m loaded…)

    The Canuck got ZERO games yet did the exact same thing!!!!!

    WW

  • freethe flames

    Did anyone see the ref who got hit in the Toronto game? After being hit and obviously concussed got up and skated back to center ice and almost hit the Leaf player. They sent him for concussion protocal. My point is he got up he skated on automatic as if he could his job; I doubt he even saw the player until the last moment. This is what I believe happened to Wides and the Flames, Wides and Dr’s failed to do the right thing.

    • Colin.S

      For those that want to find it, it happened with approximately 11:40 left in the third period.

      It’s actually quite similar to the Wideman sequence of events. The only difference is that ref doesn’t give a giant two handed chop to the first guy he runs into.

      • freethe flames

        I agree but ref’s and players are trained to do significantly different things. My real point of bringing this up was to discuss intent and autopilot. I believe both men were on auto pilot after being hit. That’s it. I hate that Henderson got hit and got hurt. I hate that this is such a big story, yes, Do I hope that this will mean a greater adherence to the intent of the concussion procedure; I hope so.

  • KiLLKiND

    Whether Wideman was concussed or not I can’t say for certain but personally I think he probably was and there is a real good chance he did have his eyes closed.

    For 3 minutes put away all your preconceived decisions and give this a fair thought. Watching the video you can see Wideman bend over then stand up around the blue line. Once he stands up is exactly when I would’ve closed my eyes if I were him just to stop the ringing and spinning. I have been concussed from snowboarding and would regularly close my eyes after checking to see if the coast was clear. This is what it looks like Wideman did to me. Just before he hits the Henderson he probably opened them again and thought “oh ****”.

    Maybe he pushed Henderson harder than he should have but him not even looking back at Henderson is what really sells me on the fact that he was probably concussed. Imagine if you were an NHL player like Wideman who knows Don probably on a first name basis given that Wideman and Henderson have been in the league for years. He also just HIT A REF! I have never seen anyone in any league do this ever. Immediately after hitting Henderson instead of helping him up or apologizing he just heads straight to the bench. Now if your 5 million dollar paycheck depends on not getting suspended is this how you would act?

    Why the hell would Wideman? do such a thing? You say it’s because he got hit in the corner and was mad. Now what sounds far fetched you assuming Dennis Wideman, someone who has never done something even close to this, was so mad he decided to attack an official. Or thinking maybe he had a concussion and was really out of it?

    Oh I forgot to mention Dennis Wideman has been in the league for years. This hit and non call is likely nothing compared to the non calls he has received before this. So drop the there is absolutely no way Wideman was concussed act, because it’s a lot more reasonable than he was mad.

    • class1div1

      Bang on Killkind. And than the media circus took over, and than the whole concussion debate took over, and than Bettman in desperation took over.

      Bettman using that text that Wideman wrote just reeks of desperation.

      No surprise to me though, as I’ve thought Bettman a despicable scoundrel for years.

    • Colin.S

      The absolute mental gymnastics you are proposing in that theory is mind boggling.

      So first we are to believe that the hit Wideman took was so severe that the room was spinning and his head was ringing the whole time to such a degree that he closes his eyes the whole time and ignores everything else around him. While at the same time he is down for only a second or two, able to skate effortlessly and in a clear straight line back to the bench and call for a line change with a signal that is immediately recognized by his bench.

      Then you claim that it was only in the split second before he hit Henderson that he finally opened his eyes. Yet before the hit even happens he changes his hand positioning on the stick and then lifts it up to angle that no hockey player casually skating back for a line change would ever have his stick at. Than delivers a cross check where his arms end up fully extended form his body with such force that Henderson is now rumored to be injured and out for the year. At the same time Wideman NEVER stumbles, never trips up, never looses his balance, which seems incredibly unlikely because as you said the his head was probably spinning, but the extension of his arms, never causes him to loose his balance at all.

      Then next you claim that not looking back, not stopping to see what the heck he just ran into is further proof? A person as confused, with the ringing and spinning you mentioned has ZERO concern for what he ran into at all? Not a quick glance? Nothing? In all his apparent confuse you believe he has, he’s able to reason that whatever he just shoved to the ground was nothing? Imaginary? And then almost immediately after he’s able to have conversations with his training staff and Coach. In the video you can see him talking to and acknowledging Engelland but he still hasn’t looked back at the Linesman he just hit. At that point when he obviously has his facilties back wouldn’t he immediately be looking at this guy that he apparently knows so well and see how he’s doing?

      And just because Henderson and Wideman are part of the same league doesn’t mean they are buddies and pals and send each other Christmas cards. Just look at the example of Stephane Auger with Shance Doan and Alex Burrows. Auger was in the league 12 years, but that doesn’t mean was buddies with everyone in the league.

      And yes, nothing like this has been seen in the NHL. That doesn’t mean it could never happen. How often have players been struck in the head the way McSorley did it before he did it? When has any hockey player gone after a player like the way that Bertuzzi did and yet that happened? It is not entirely out of the realm of possibility that someone makes a terribly stupid decision. This one just looks especially bad because it was a defenseless linesman.

      Yup, he made a bad decision in a split second. That’s actually very easy to believe. Believing that he had such a sevre concussion but able to all these things with ease and come in and out of this supposed concussion that seems a lot more far fetched to me. Sometimes the simplist answer is the right one.

      Yup, guys that are in the league for years never do dumb things, I wonder what Raffi Torres is up to these days…..

      • KiLLKiND

        So first we are to believe that the hit Wideman took was so severe that the room was spinning and his head was ringing the whole time to such a degree that he closes his eyes the whole time and ignores everything else around him. While at the same time he is down for only a second or two, able to skate effortlessly and in a clear straight line back to the bench and call for a line change with a signal that is immediately recognized by his bench.

        No you don’t have to belive Wideman’s head was spinning but that’s how it felt to me. Yes he can close his eyes and ignore eveything around him the play was nowhere near him and neither was Henderson. Wow an NHL player made it back to his bench despite being hurt call the papers this has never happened nor will it ever happen again. He calls for a line change becuase that is what every single player does whether they are hurt or not when they are coming off the ice.

        After that you start ramblinling nonsense comparing Wideman to Bertuzzi, Torres, and others. Colin.S I sincerely hope you magically develop a very severe concussion in the near future so you can maybe compare notes.

        As of right now I have no respect for you or anything you have said. You haven’t given both sides a fair look and are so set on being right it doesn’t matter what logical points are presented.
        As the saying goes if you argue with an idiot they’ll drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.

  • hootoil

    Dennis Wideman – an adult Hockey Player was seen apparently using his stick on a Game Official.Some probably thought the act was an Assault. Wideman received some League Justice – A 20 Game Suspension. The Official had to leave the Game because of the injury.The matter is apparently
    “OVER.” SLIPPERY SPORT JUSTICE has acted.

    Thousands of fan plus League Officials and Police were at the Game.Video exists – yet – thus far – No
    Criminal Charges have been later?
    If the Official ever Charged the player – the Official would be out of the League?
    Will this Attack still warrant real Charges?l

  • BlueMoonNigel

    Lost in all this boohooing for Wideman is that Henderson has still not come back and may never come back. If all Henderson had to do was sit for 20 games and he could return daisy fresh, he’d do that deal in a second. In addition, the long-term ramifications of the hit on Henderson are unknown and open to conjecture. Let’s also get another thing perfectly clear. The victim in this story is not Wideman. It is Don Henderson.

    • Canrock 78

      I wonder how much of Henderson injury shack and concussion are compounded from the earlier hit?
      Kerry Frazers explanation some it up perfectly. He notes Henderson cuts into DW path. No one want to see an official get hurt but he took away the path to the box for an injured player that was to get off the ice. I also like Frazers assessment of a 10 game suspention because it was not deliberate but it was excessive.