Dennis Wideman Wins Appeal, Has Suspension Reduced to 10 Games

Dennis Wideman will have his 20-game suspension reduced to 10 games, the league announced Friday.

Wideman was suspended for injuring linesman Don Henderson back on Jan. 27. The league levied a 20-game suspension for his actions. Wideman and the NHLPA appealed the ruling. From that initial process the ball is passed to commissioner Gary Bettman to handle the ruling.

Bettman upheld the 20-game suspension on Feb. 17.

Following that, Wideman and the NHLPA used his final appear allowable under the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) to take his case to an independent arbitrator. This is the first time a player has exercised this option under the current CBA.

The key for arbitrator James Oldham was the idea that Wideman intended to injure Henderson. Oldham writes in his decision:

The Commissioner’s conclusion, however, that Wideman’s behavior constituted intentional action within the meaning of Rule 40.2, automatically triggering a penalty of not less than twenty games, is not endorsed in this appeal because, in my opinion, that conclusion is not substantially supported by the totality of the evidence presented to me at the NDA hearing. In my judgment, the proper penalty should have been that specified in League Rule 40.3. Taking into account Wideman’s eleven years of discipline-free performance as a professional hockey player, there is no occasion to go beyond the ten game minimum specified in Rule 40.3.

His suspension being cut in half will be cold comfort to the Flames, who went through a crucial stretch of the season without him. Wideman, in total, missed 19 games.

He won’t get those nine games back with the reduced sentence, but he is going to be getting a good chunk of money back. According to General Fanager, the forfeited salary will be reduced to $282,258 from $564,516.

It’s been a strange process. And it’s gotten stranger at each turn. With the ruling coming in today, Bettman’s comments at the opening day of the Sloan Analytics Conference are strange. He said that he’s “completely comfortable with the process” of this situation, according to ESPN’s Craig Custance.

He maybe didn’t intend it that way, but the statement comes across as saying that with how slow this process was that he’s happy that Wideman basically had to serve Bettman’s suspension no matter what.

The NHL has offered their official response, saying that they disagree with the ruling. They aren’t able to appeal again, but they can bring the ruling to court. Here’s the league’s statement in full:

We are in receipt of Arbitrator James Oldham’s Opinion in the appear of Dennis Wideman’s supplementary discipline suspension and reducing the suspension from 20 to 10 games. We strenuously disagree with the Arbitrator’s ruling and are reviewing the Opinion in detail to determine what next steps may be appropriate. We will have no further comment until we have completed our review. In light of and in response to Arbitrator Oldham’s Opinion, Mr. Wideman will be reinstated and will be eligible to participate in his team’s games, effective immediately.

The NHLPA also released a statement on the ruling:

Given that it was undisputed that Dennis suffered a concussion mere seconds prior to his collision with linesman Don Henderson, we felt strongly that there should have been no discipline. Nonetheless we are pleased that Arbitrator Oldham found that the collusion was not intentional and that the suspension was reduced to 10 games. We respect the process and the decision and we look forward to Dennis returning to the ice tonight with his teammates.

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