An independent arbitrator recently ruled that Dennis Wideman’s 20-game suspension for hitting an official should be reduced to 10 games. Wideman had already severed 19 games of his suspension, but the ruling did return a large portion of the salary he was going to forfeit ($282,258 of the $564,516 total) and it did send a message. That message is one the NHL and the NHL Officials’ Association aren’t happy with.
Here’s the statement from the NHL Officials’ Association:
Statement from Dan O'Halloran on behalf of NHL Officials' Association: pic.twitter.com/8nutXL9Uat
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) March 12, 2016
The NHL routinely hands out suspensions based on the health of the other player involved, so it makes sense that the Officials’ Association wouldn’t be too pleased with a reduced sentence considering Don Henderson is unable to serve in his role for the remainder of the season. Meanwhile, the NHL is arguing that the independent arbitrator doesn’t fully understand the situation as a third party and that they are evaluating their next steps.
The only group that is happy outside of Wideman is the NHLPA. No real surprise there as they’ve maintained the stance that Wideman wasn’t aware of his actions due to a concussion.
It sounds like this situation still isn’t resolved. Wideman returned to action with the Calgary Flames, but the NHL will likely keep the matter open.
One of the other issues found during this whole ordeal is the fact the review/appeal process takes far too long. Wideman had already served 19 of his 20 games by the time the arbitrator reached a ruling. Despite that point, Gary Bettman is pleased with how the appeal process is handled.
Bettman on the Wideman appeal dragging out: I'm perfectly comfortable with the process. #SSAC16
— Craig Custance (@CraigCustance) March 11, 2016
Would this appeal have taken so long had it involved a different player with a higher profile? Like a Sidney Crosby or a Steven Stamkos? If a team had one of those players sit out 19 games only to see the ruling changed to 10, those are nine games you can’t get back which could have gone differently with a star player. Can the appeal process really be that effective in that situation? Is it only OK because Wideman isn’t a key skater on the Flames’ roster?
There are a lot of lessons to be learned from the Wideman ordeal, but it remains to be seen if any party will actually learn from it.