Dennis Wideman could be in for a long suspension, with video of the Calgary Flames defenseman cross-checking a referee making its way to league offices and possibly leading to an unprecedented punishment for him.
Wideman was making his way to his team’s bench after taking a hit from Nashville Predators winger Miika Salomaki when he came up behind linesman Don Henderson. As Wideman got right behind Henderson, he delivered a two-handed check to the official’s back that sent him tumbling to the ice and boards.
Dennis Wideman didn’t get a penalty on the play, but on Thurday the NHL said it will be reviewing video of the incident.
Wideman claims the check was not intentional, saying he saw Henderson too late and couldn’t avoid the hit.
“I took a pretty good hit down in the corner and had some pretty good pain in my shoulder and neck,” Wideman said (via ESPN). “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.”
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 28, 2016
After he took a hard hit, Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman cross-checked a linesman. https://t.co/ni1vWBiPfD
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 28, 2016
That part of the story was certainly true. Wideman was seen approaching Henderson at the first stoppage to apologize.
Said Flames coach Bob Hartley: “We all know Wides — a great guy. He’s not an aggressive person of any nature, and it was just like a bad accident,” said Flames coach Bob Hartley.
There are many who don’t agree. Nate Scott of the USA Today called on the NHL to come down hard on the Flames defenseman.
“The NHL needs to suspend Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman and they need to do it for a long time.
“During the Flames game Wednesday night against the Nashville Predators, Wideman was knocked down by a trailing check in his own end. He then skated over to his bench, where he came up behind referee Don Henderson. Wideman then raised his hands up and gave Henderson a vicious check to the back, knocking him down to the ice.”
If the NHL determines that video of the Dennis Wideman hit shows intent to plow over Don Henderson, the defenseman could be facing a huge suspension. The NHL rulebook says a player who deliberately injures an official is subject to a suspension of at least 20 games, ESPN reported.
There have been a few other high-profile incidents of players suspended for attacking referees. The most famous was in 1955, when Montreal Canadiens legend Maurice Richard laid out linesman Cliff Thompson, who was restraining Richard during a fight with Hal Laycoe of the Boston Bruins.
Richard ended up suspended for 15 games, setting off a riot in his home city.
Another incident happened in 1927, with Boston Bruins player Billy Coutu attacked referee Jerry Laflamme off the ice. Coutu was reportedly acting on the instruction of his coach, Art Ross, but the NHL still suspended him for life. That eventually was lifted five years later when Montreal Canadiens head coach Leo Dandurand spoke up for Coutu, but by that point he had been retired for a year.
Video of the Dennis Wideman incident is reportedly at the NHL offices now, with a decision expected to come soon.
[Image via Fox Sports screenshot/USA Today]