The NHL suspended Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman 20 games without pay on Wednesday, Feb. 3 for cross-checking a referee from behind on Jan. 27 against the Nashville Predators. This suspension is the second-longest suspension in NHL history for abusing an official. Abuse of an official is one of the most serious violations a player can commit.
It is very encouraging to see the NHL make a statement on this incident. They are sending a strong message to the league that this type of stuff will not be tolerated. Officiating hockey at the professional level is extremely difficult to call due to the fast-paced action, physicality and pressure of the job.
The official ruling on Wideman’s suspension is Rule 40 in the rulebook, physical abuse of officials. He brutally knocked down referee Don Henderson on a vicious check from behind which left Henderson face down on the ice for a couple of minutes. After the game was over, Wideman was claiming he didn’t know it was a referee because he was so concussed after a hit he had received into the boards seconds before.
“I took a pretty hard hit down in the corner. Had pretty good pain in my shoulder and my neck. I was trying to get off the ice. I kind of kneeled over. At the last second I looked up and I saw him,” Wideman said.
Wideman cost himself $564,516 in salary as a result of his cheap shot on Henderson. In 2000, Gordie Dwyer of the Tampa Bay Lightning was also suspended for the same violation, but for a longer timeframe.
Wideman and the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) attempted to appeal Wideman’s suspension without pay but came up empty. They stated that Wideman has played for 11 seasons in the NHL and 755 games without an incident. They also had the medical records of Wideman’s diagnosed concussion following the game against Nashville that he suffered from the hit he took in the corner. The NHL understood where they were coming from on their argument but were not willing to bite. Hitting an official has no place in this league and Wideman needs to learn from this. Hopefully this will send a message to the entire league as well.
Wideman’s suspension came into effect on Wednesday, Feb. 3 against the Carolina Hurricanes. He is eligible to return to action on Friday, March 11 at home against the Arizona Coyotes.