Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, the Dennis Wideman saga is not over.
According to court documents filed in the United States District Court in New York, the National Hockey League is suing the National Hockey League Players Association. Wideman served 19 games of the originally-stipulated 20-game suspension for a January 27 on-ice collision with linesman Don Henderson that was ruled as an abuse of an official by the NHL’s Hockey Operations department. The suspension was reduced to 10 games on appeal to neutral discipline arbitrator James Oldham – Wideman was refunded his salary for the 9 games he was suspended above the 10-game amount.
But now, the NHL is arguing that the arbitrator overstepped his authority in overturning the Wideman suspension – asserting his own judgment rather than evaluating the grounds for punishment laid out by Commissioner Gary Bettman on Wideman’s initial appeal.
From the NHL’s filing:
Presumably, a ruling in the NHL’s favour in court would see Wideman serve the 20th game of the suspension in the 2016-17 season and see the salary he was refunded after his suspension was reduced revert back to the Players’ Emergency Relief Fund.
The crux of the case will likely be the interpretation of a single sentence in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, found in the subsection relating to the Neutral Discipline Arbitrator:
Does that first sentence (“The NDA shall hold an in-person hearing and shall determine whether the final decision of the League regarding whether the Player’s conduct violated the League Playing Rules and whether the length of the suspension imposed were supported by substantial evidence.“) in subsection (c) refer to the NDA’s ability to review whether the player’s conduct violated rules (and the length of the suspension) or is their authority necessarily limited to the examination of the final decision of the league itself (and whether it was supported by substantial evidence). The NHL appears to be arguing that it’s the latter.
We’ll have more on this (never-ending) story as it develops.