By the sounds of things, Brian Burke is officially done with the entire Dennis Wideman situation. Wideman, originally suspended for 20 games, had his suspension reduced by a neutral independent arbitrator – the final step in the appeals process, and the first time such a step has been taken – to 10 games today, on the day he would have served his 20th game.
“It’s over,” Burke said in a press conference. “There’s not much point to my ranting and raving about it. … Today’s the day to close the door, in my mind.”
Burke started off his press conference by wishing a speedy recovery for Don Henderson, the linesman Wideman made contact with during a game on Jan. 27. Henderson still has yet to be able to return to work, and his health, at this point, should certainly be the number one concern.
He followed this up by throwing his full support behind the Flames’ training and medical staff, and believes they acted properly at all times. When pressed further on the subject and asked if he was concerned Wideman wasn’t removed from the game following the incident in question, Burke responded, “A player can exhibit concussion symptoms after a game. Our protocol was followed to the letter. The trainer spoke to him, felt he was lucid … and he stayed in the game and finished the game without any difficulty. After the game he complained of symptoms, was given a test, and registered concussion symptoms. But nothing fell through the cracks.”
This is a particularly tricky subject to follow, and all we can do is take Burke’s word for it. If the NHL feels the need to pursue this further, though, then they’d have to answer for allowing Henderson to finish the game, just as Burke answered for Wideman.
But Burke is definitely, emphatically standing behind his staff.
The bulk of the the press conference, though, was spent emphasizing these two ideas:
- The Flames support the process as it unfolded.
- The next time something like this happens, the process needs to be much quicker.
“It has to be expedited for the next player that goes through this,” Burke said. He added a caveat: “This is the first time through. … Having gone through [the process] now, I think you have to respect the fact this is uncharted waters for everybody.” Never before has the NHL had to call on an independent arbitrator, after all. “It’s real easy to say this should have been done in two weeks or in 10 days or whatever. … We’re not going to find fault in that.”
The Flames did lose Wideman for an additional nine games, and it came at an inopportune time for the organization, as General Manager Brad Treliving had to attend meetings leading up to the trade deadline. But ultimately? The Flames weren’t victimized, in the organization’s view, and the Flames will not be seeking compensation for everything that happened.
As Burke, a lawyer by trade, mentioned, this is usually a timely process – and if anything, compared to other arbitration cases, this one itself may very well have been expedited. “This is a normal timeframe for this type of dispute,” he said. The world of sports is much different, though, and a much more time-sensitive world, hence the need to speed things up for any future occurrences.
Regarding immediate consequences, Tyler Wotherspoon will not dress for tonight’s game, as Wideman is now available. He’s still with the team, but the NHL has given the Flames another day to address their roster situation, so we will likely see Wotherspoon returned from his emergency recall and sent back to Stockton tomorrow.
But the bottom line? The Flames organization is understanding of how things went down, and satisfied with the outcome and what it means for their player. As far as they’re concerned, it’s over; as far as the NHL’s statement about further looking into the matter, Burke “isn’t sure what that means” – nor should he be, because the CBA dictates that this is the final step to be made in appealing a decision.
And hopefully, next time around, the process will be streamlined, so another player doesn’t have to be left twisting in the wind in the manner Wideman has spent the past six weeks.
“Far be it from us to complain about it, or suggest there’s a better way to do it,” Burke said. “There’s gotta be a quicker way to do it, though.
“The goal going forward has to be to have a more streamlined process, but certainly we’re not going to find fault with it today.”