USATSI_9062870_154158418_lowresCalgary Flames defenceman Dennis Wideman has been suspended 20 games without pay for violating the NHL’s Rule 40, which pertains to Physical Abuse of Officials.

As we reported nearly a week ago, the incident in question took place on January 27 in a game against the Nashville Predators. Wideman “either made incidental contact with an official or launched a brutal crosscheck from behind.”

In the eyes of the league, it was the latter. Wideman’s claim of having no intent to injure the official, linesman Don Henderson, didn’t appear to make sense in assessing the incident overall and indeed many observers of the game didn’t buy it. Being “woozy” after a hit does not offer a player open license to go zebra-hunting.

Because this wasn’t a player safety matter, Colin Campbell was in charge of handing down the suspension. And because there was no game misconduct or penalty on the play, Campbell was free to lay out a suspension without any consideration for how things were decided on the ice.

Wideman attended a hearing at the NHL’s Toronto offices and was represented by the NHLPA, who now says it’s looking to appeal the 20-game ban.

“We strongly disagree with the League’s decision to suspend Dennis Wideman,” the union said. “Dennis has played in 11 NHL seasons and almost 800 games without incident. The facts, including the medical evidence presented at the hearing, clearly demonstrate that Dennis had no intention to make contact with the linesman. An appeal has been filed on the player’s behalf.”

It stands to reason that the NHL is protective of officials, even to the extent that referees and linesmen typically aren’t made available to press after games. And there is an Officials’ Association to consider here, which ran counter to the NHLPA in arguing for a harsher suspension in defence of its own. In other words, the wheels keep on turning.

There are many issues here and the NHL’s decision to throw the book at Wideman indicates a sense for hard justice, but it doesn’t make some of the facts go away.

If Wideman was “too woozy” to know what was going on, the NHL’s concussion protocol should’ve been taken into account in at least some capacity. But he remained in the game and shook it off, evidently. That likely didn’t bode well for his defence or for the game’s lacklustre approach to concussions.

Also, if the NHLPA wins their appeal and the Wideman suspension is reduced, the NHL can still stand by the fact that it tried to mete out justice. And that’s really all it wants at this point. Even if the ban doesn’t stick, it offered the officials what they were after and that keeps relations tight with the black-and-whites. Anything less, as they say, would’ve been uncivilized.

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