Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman could be in a bit of trouble after cross-checking a linesman on Wednesday night. During the Flames’ final game before the All-Star break, Wideman took a hit in the corner from Nashville Predators forward Miikka Salomaki, and he appeared to be a little shaken up.
As Wideman headed to the bench looking a little woozy, he initiated contact with linesman Don Henderson right in front of the team benches, cross-checking him from behind and burying him to the ice. Henderson, understandably, was caught off guard and needed a few moments to recover, but he would stay in the game, as would Wideman. And, despite protests from Nashville coach Peter Laviolette, there was no penalty assessed on the play.
But, still, Wideman may face supplemental discipline from the NHL, and it may be significant — possibly upwards of a 20+ game suspension. Here’s the league’s rulebook on abuse of officials, via Scouting The Refs:
40.1 Game Misconduct – Any player who deliberately applies physical force in any manner against an official, in any manner attempts to injure an official, physically demeans, or deliberately applies physical force to an official solely for the purpose of getting free of such an official during or immediately following an altercation shall receive a game misconduct penalty. In addition, the following (40.2, 40.3, 40.4) disciplinary penalties shall apply.
40.2 Automatic Suspension – Category I – Any player who deliberately strikes an official and causes injury or who deliberately applies physical force in any manner against an official with intent to injure, or who in any manner attempts to injure an official shall be automatically suspended for not less than twenty (20) games. (For the purpose of the rule, “intent to injure” shall mean any physical force which a player knew or should have known could reasonably be expected to cause injury.)
40.3 Automatic Suspension – Category II – Any player who deliberately applies physical force to an official in any manner (excluding actions as set out in Category I), which physical force is applied without intent to injure, or who spits on an official, shall be automatically suspended for not less than ten (10) games.
The final decision is up to Hockey Operations — not the Department of Player Safety headed by Stephane Quintal. That means the decision falls to Colin Campbell, the league’s Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations.
The 32-year-old Wideman reportedly apologized to Henderson soon after the incident, and he insists that the check wasn’t delivered intentionally.
“I was just trying to get off the ice. At the last second, I looked up and saw him,” Wideman said after the game. “I couldn’t avoid it. I didn’t know where to go or how to get out of the way of him.”
“Throughout my career I think I’ve treated every official with the utmost respect,” Wideman added. “I’d never try to intentionally hit a linesman or ref.”
The veteran defenseman isn’t known as a dirty player and doesn’t have a suspension history, and the obvious defense here is that he was dazed as a result of the hit from Salomaki and was spooked when he saw Henderson at the last second. You can see Wideman’s skates pivot suddenly before the collision, indicating that he genuinely may not have been aware Henderson was there.
But Wideman also may have been frustrated by the collision with Salomaki — he slammed his stick on the ice on his way back to the bench — and, honestly, the video doesn’t look all that great for him. Even if Henderson wasn’t spotted until the last second, Wideman didn’t just attempt to avoid contact; he still cross-checked him in the back, following through.
The best thing Wideman has going for him is that there was no penalty called on the ice for the hit. If he were to be assessed a penalty and/or thrown out of the game, the league really would have had no other choice but to slap him with a suspension. Now, though, it’s going to be very interesting to see how they handle it.
Update: A report Thursday afternoon indicates that Henderson was later hospitalized as a result of the hit from Wideman. It’s scary to think that either one (or both!) of these guys may have suffered a concussion and stayed in the game.
One would assume that Henderson’s hospitalization doesn’t help Wideman’s chances at avoiding supplemental discipline from the league, regardless of whether or not intent was there. With injury, it’s also likely that Wideman is in line for a Category I suspension (20+ games) if they decide to punish him.