Brian Burke: ‘We hope the process gets expedited for the next player’

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:

  1. The Flames support the process as it unfolded.
  2. 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.

It’s over.

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.”

  • MontanaMan

    It’s the appropriate response from Burke and from the Flames organization but clearly the process is broken and needs a considerable overhaul. Wideman’s final suspension is akin to a person receiving and serving 2 years in jail for an offence but upon appeal, receives 6 months in jail. It’s ridiculous.

  • fretsey

    Hey…who photo-shopped the tie?? Clearly this picture has been tampered

    Burkie said all the right things and controlled his temper quite well…although Francis managed to kinda piss him off

    Hopefully it’s all over and Bettman eats his humble pie and doesn’t take this to another level (is there another level?)

  • ChinookArchYYC

    The only thing I wanted to hear “It’s over”.

    I can’t wait till that is actually true. I’m sick of this story.

    In a related vein, I hope that Henderson has a full and speedy recovery.

  • Stu Cazz

    Agree it’s over and time to move on. I’m hoping Henderson is fine….I’m hearing that his lawyers are preparing a major lawsuit…this could go on for quite sometime unfortunately….

  • beloch

    It’s safe to say Burke could have been more critical of how the league handled this. In particular, he was very careful not to say anything bad about Bettman’s choice to include that out-of-context text message, especially in light of who it was to.

    In my view, Burke’s trying to patch up relations with the league. Sure, he could publicly humiliate Bettman and use the press to pressure an apology out of him, but to what end? The Flames aren’t going to get free picks or anything actually helpful out of this, so why royally PO a commissioner who is going to be around for a very long time? Burke’s smart enough to know a moral victory isn’t worth that kind of grudge. Taking the media out of things in this way does the league a big favor.

  • McRib

    I feel vindicated!! Time to get Wideman back in the lineup so we can lose more!!! However I do love the effort of the players the last few games though, any Top. 5-6 pick is fine as well if they keep up this effort and win a few. Never want to just completely give up on a season (see long term effects of that mentality up North on Highway 2, embarrassing).

  • beloch

    Even if Burke seemed willing to take the high road, the league apparently isn’t.

    We are in receipt of Arbitrator James Oldham’s Opinion in the appeal of Dennis Wideman’s supplementary discipline suspension and reducing the suspension from 20 to 10 games. We strenuously disagree with the Arbitrator’s ruling and are reviewing the Opinion in detail to determine what next steps may be appropriate. We will have no further comment until we have completed our review. In light of and in response to Arbitrator Oldham’s Opinion, Mr. Wideman will be reinstated and will be eligible to participate in his team’s games, effective immediately.

    Official NHL Statement

    The league signed an agreement with the NHLPA stating that they would abide by the decision of an independent arbitrator in cases like this. There’s no further appeals allowed in the process. The arbitrator was the final word according the the letter of league law. At this point, the league should be done with the matter. Henderson may pursue his own legal options, but the league should not have any further role in the process.

    I really hate sounding like the stereotypical hockey fan ragging on Bettman, but the dude gets ragged on precisely because of zero class moves like this. What really is the issue here? Does it really matter that Wideman returns to action one whole game ahead of schedule? Bettman seems ready to tear up his agreement with the NHLPA simply out of pride!

    • Greg

      Agreed. It would be… Humorous?… If the league decided to pursue it further. You’d have to wonder what the point would be? What would they be trying to prove?

  • oddclod

    Great comment above. 30% Trashed it. TRASHED IT.

    Good job.

    And the dude deserved to sit. He got dumb for a moment and messed up and paid for it now it’s over. He got some salary back hence the retroactive suspension. Can’t turn back time but you can take half his salary while he waited. Trash this 2. It’s over.