Right before the start of the All-Star break, Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman was suspended indefinitely for running into NHL linesman Don Henderson during a game and violently pushing him into the boards.
On Wednesday, it was announced that the NHL had given a true timeline for the suspension; per Director of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell, Wideman will serve a 20 game suspension without pay for the incident.
In the hours after the ruling, the NHLPA announced their decision to appeal the suspension, suggesting in an official statement that Wideman had been suffering from a medical condition at the time of the incident that prevented him from truly understanding his actions:
“We strongly disagree with the League’s decision to suspension Dennis Wideman,” reported the NHLPA. “Dennis has played in 11 NHL seasons and almost 800 games without incident. The facts, including the medical evidence presented at the hearing, clearly demonstrate that Dennis had no intention to make contact with the linesman. An appeal has been filed on the players behalf.”
The appeal statement from the NHLPA suggests that Wideman was suffering from a concussion (or a similar head injury) and wasn’t mentally able to discern what was going on around him when he struck Henderson.
That creates even more ambiguity in the case with Flames head coach Bob Hartley’s statement on Thursday:
Bob Hartley says Dennis Wideman has cleared concussion protocol. As such, practiced today. The whole thing leaves me dubious.
— Mark Spector (@SportsnetSpec) February 4, 2016
If what Hartley suggests is the case – and Wideman has indeed passed concussion protocol – then a concussion symptom-related appeal will have less ground to stand on, especially since Wideman refused medical attention during the game itself. It’s important to note, though, that the incident occured nearly a week and a half ago; it’s possible that he was suffering from symptoms at the time of the hit and he’s cleared up by now.
Although Wideman will practice with the Flames, he cannot re-join the lineup until his 20-game suspension is up, barring a succesful appeal by the player and the NHLPA against the league.