The NHL Officials’ Association released a statement on Saturday morning that strongly disagreed with the independent arbitrator’s decision to reduce Dennis Wideman’s suspension from 20 games to 10 games.
James Oldham, the arbitrator appointed to oversee Wideman’s appeal, made the decision earlier this week, despite already sitting 19 games. Although the games cannot be made up, Wideman will only forfeit $282,258, as opposed to the original $564,516 originally handed down by the NHL.
The NHLOA strongly disagrees with the decision while linesman Don Henderson continues to recover from an injury inflicted by the player that will sideline him for the rest of the season,” the statement said. “The message in reducing the suspension that is sent to NHL players, as well as athletes all over the world, including children, is that the code of conduct towards officials has changed.”
During the Calgary Flames and Nashville Predators game on Jan. 27, defenseman Wideman was hit into the boards and skated back toward his team’s bench and cross checked linesman Henderson on his way. Wideman’s defense was that he suffered a concussion on the play, altering his judgment on the ice.
Statement from Dan O'Halloran on behalf of NHL Officials' Association: pic.twitter.com/8nutXL9Uat
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) March 12, 2016
The arbitrator ruled the following on Friday morning.
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.
Wideman appeared in his first game after the suspension Friday evening, a 4-1 loss to the Arizona Coyotes. Wideman had no points and was a minus-1.
“The NHLOA intends to take all steps necessary so that its members are protected in the future and ensure that this type of conduct by a player against an official never happens again,” the statement concluded.