In what will surely go down in history as
the world’s most expensive cross-check, Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman
was slapped with a 20-game suspension for hospitalizing a linesman during the
team’s final game before the All-Star break. The long stretch on the bench
means the defenseman will forfeit $564,516.13 worth of his salary, a hefty sum
for the 11-year veteran in his fourth season with the Flames.
The hit on linesman Don Henderson occurred
during the second period of a game against the Nashville Predators as Wideman
was skating back to the bench after taking a massive check from Predators’ right-winger,
Mikka Salomaki. As Wideman approached the bench he hit Henderson square in the
back sending him to the ice and against the boards. Henderson appeared injured
but no penalty was called and both player and linesman finished out the game. Afterward
Henderson was taken to the emergency room complaining of neck pain and nausea
where he was diagnosed with a concussion.
There is some debate as to whether the
contact was intentional or not. Wideman claims he was “woozy” and disoriented
from Salomaki’s vicious knock and couldn’t avoid the contact. Others believe
the cross-check was in retaliation for Salomaki’s hit not being called for a
penalty. With the league rules dictating either a 10 or 20 game suspension
depending on whether there was “intent to injure” it is clear the NHL and its
commissioner, Gary Bettman, are treating the impact as deliberate.
Wideman has expressed regret about the situation
insisting that the collision was unintentional and unavoidable. At the first
stoppage after the incident he skated over to the officials grouped along the
boards to apologize directly but that will have little effect on either the
league or the NHL Officials Organization who are charged with protecting their
personnel first and foremost.
Wideman can appeal the sentence directly to
Bettman and perhaps even exercise his right to a neutral arbitrator if the
appeal fails. It is unclear what Wideman’s intentions are at this point but it
is likely the Flames will appeal any sentence over six games in an attempt to
keep their Alternate Captain off the ice for as little as possible.
Wideman won’t don skates while his case is
under appeal causing the Flames to recall defenseman Jakub Nakladal from their
AHL affiliate, the Stockton Heat, but the loss of a player like Wideman will
likely be a blow to a team struggling to stay in 6th place in the
“Wides is a big part of our team,” said
Flames Captain Mike Giordano. “He’s a great player on the ice but off the ice,
too, he’s a guy who had a voice in this room. Hopefully, it all works out.”
Labels: Michael Quinn