SportsCentre was the first to report the news on Twitter.
NHL Public Relations released an official statement regarding the decision to discipline Wideman:
NHL Public Relations @PR_NHL
Dennis Wideman (@NHLFlames) has been suspended for 20 games. https://t.co/9p3zh5fdse2/3/2016, 7:00:10 PM
The National Hockey League Players' Association later released a statement announcing Wideman would be appealing the suspension, per Travis Hughes of SB Nation:
Travis Hughes @TravisSBN
NHLPA appealing Wideman suspension: "Dennis has played almost 800 games without incident." https://t.co/OYAmsvbR9k2/3/2016, 11:38:27 PM
Commissioner Gary Bettman upheld the suspension and released a statement on the decision, (via Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo Sports):
Greg Wyshynski @wyshynski
From the Dept. of Predictable Actions: Bettman upholds Dennis Wideman suspension. To the arbitrator we go! https://t.co/ZhgmMpjFTq2/17/2016, 10:18:01 PM
Flames President of Hockey Operations Brian Burke provided a statement regarding the news:
We were informed earlier today that our player, Dennis Wideman, was suspended for contact with an official in last Wednesday’s game against Nashville. We disagree with the severity of today’s suspension ruling and maintain that Dennis’ collision with the linesman was unintentional and accidental. We agree that our officials’ safety and well-being is of extreme importance in order to allow them to perform their duties. They perform an invaluable but underappreciated role in our game. We support sanctions against players who make deliberate contact with any official. However, unintentional and accidental contact does occur at times in our game. We will have no further comment on the matter at this time.
CBC Montreal provided a video of the incident that landed Wideman in trouble with the NHL:
CBC Montreal @CBCMontreal
NHL announces Wideman is suspended indefinitely Wideman says he saw linesman at last second & couldn't avoid him https://t.co/sPjZMPftdU1/28/2016, 9:04:48 PM
The league later confirmed that Wideman was diagnosed with a concussion after hitting the linesman, per NHL on NBC, and it will determine if the Flames will be fined for not following concussion protocol, per Rick Westhead of the Sports Network.
When asked about the situation after the game, Wideman insisted the hit was accidental and said he apologized to linesman Don Henderson, per ESPN.com:
I took a pretty good hit down in the corner and had some pretty good pain in my shoulder and neck. I was just trying to get off the ice and kind of keeled over. At the last second, I looked up and saw [Henderson] and couldn't avoid it. I went up to Donnie and apologized to him on the ice.
I didn't see him. I didn't know where to go and how to get out of the way. I've been around for a few years, and I think I've treated every official with the utmost respect, and I would never intentionally try to hit a linesman or a ref. It was completely unintentional, and I already apologized to him.
Per Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, the assumption is that Wideman argued during the hearing for his case that he was "woozy" or "foggy" after taking a hit, which is why he collided with Henderson.
With Wideman now out of the picture for 20 games, the Flames are in line to lose one of their most dependable defensemen during a crucial part of the schedule.
Calgary trails the San Jose Sharks by 12 points for the third and final playoff spot in the Western Conference's Pacific Division, and tracking them down without Wideman until the stretch run won't be easy.
The 32-year-old blueliner is having a down year by his standards, with two goals and 17 assists for 19 points in 48 games, but he notched a career-high 15 goals and 41 assists for 56 points last season.
He is a steady presence on the back end, and without him, Calgary will likely be forced to rely on Ladislav Smid as a replacement, who is far less offensively inclined.
Regardless of the circumstances surrounding the incident, the NHL made it crystal-clear that it won't tolerate any form of aggression toward officials moving forward.
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