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NHL sues NHLPA over Wideman suspension reduction

February 24, 2015: Calgary Flames Defenceman Dennis Wideman (6) [2947] during player warm-ups prior to the start of a regular season NHL game between the Calgary Flames and the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden in New York, NY.

Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman was suspended for 20 games for cross-checking a linesman earlier in the 2015-16 season – and although the final ten games of his suspension were repealed when the case was taken to arbitration, it seems that the NHL isn’t finished with the saga just yet.

Per Darren Heitner via Twitter, the NHL filed a lawsuit against the NHLPA on June 8th, requesting that the 10-game reduction in Wideman’s suspension be vacated.

The 16-page complaint alleges that the reduction, awarded by a neutral discipline arbitrator to shrink Wideman’s sentence from 20 games to just 10, went against the ‘standard of review set forth in the CBA’. Per the complaint:

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 5.18.16 PM

In the current lawsuit, the NHL asserts that the two doctors who spoke at both the initial hearing for Wideman and the appeal before NHL commissioner Gary Bettman provided statements that were ‘speculative, at times contradictory, and lacking support’.

The initial upholding of the suspension, written in a 22-page explanation by Bettman, suggested that the evidence by the NHLPA that Wideman had been experiencing a ‘diminished mental and/or physical capacity’ was inadequate to determine clearly and convincingly that the incident did not deserve the 20-game suspension.

Per the current lawsuit, the NHL is alleging that the NDA (neutral discipline arbitrator) stepped outside the bounds of what he was allowed to determine, which is limited to whether or not the decision made by Bettman was ‘supported by substantial evidence’. The decision t0 re-review the evidence and come to an alternate conclusion altogether, per the NHL, oversteps the boundaries set forth in the CBA for the arbitrator.

If the NHL wins the case, the NHLPA will be required to submit the financial amount equal to the reduced 10-game suspension back to the NHL, which will be put in the Player’s Emergency Assistance Fund. Should the NHL fail to walk away from this victorious, nothing will change; at no point will Wideman be required to sit out any additional games at any point.

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