(WTNH)–It was one of the most out-of-line, awful, unsportsmanlike acts you’ve seen at a sporting event. Until you think about it a little more. And you realize that there might be more to this story.
Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman shoved referee Don Henderson in the back during the team’s game with the Nashville Predators yesterday, sending the linesman to the ice face-first.
It was horrendous, indefensible, and after your initial reaction that this dude should be thrown out of the league, or suspended 50 games, or more.
But then you think about it a little bit more. And you watch the hit he took just seconds before delivering that embarassing blow to the referee.
What if Dennis Wideman had a concussion?
“I took a pretty hard hit down in the corner,” Wideman told reporters after the game. “I had some pretty good pain in my shoulder, my neck. I was just trying to get off the ice. I was kind of keeled over and at the last second I looked up and saw him. I 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 or how to get out of the way of him.”
Wideman wasn’t penalized for the hit, and his defense that he mistook Henderson for a player might make sense, given that he just had his bell rung in the corner. It also makes sense, given the fact that the puck was coming his way, and the right play in hockey terms is to check your man in that situation.
If Wideman was dazed and confused, you can certainly see this happening.
The NHL rulebook calls for a minimum 20-game suspension for players who deliberately stike an official during a game, but it’s possible that the league could give Wideman more games than that.
The longest suspension in NHL history is two-and-a-half years, which was handed out to Boston Bruins player Billy Coutu, who assaulted two referees and started a bench-clearing brawl during the Stanley Cup Finals. Coutu was originally given a lifetime ban, though it was dropped after two-and-a-half years. Either way, Coutu never played again.
Wideman likely won’t surpass that, but he could be penalized more than the 30 games given to Chris Simon of the Islanders in 2007 after he slammed his skate into the foot of Penguins forward Jarkko Ruutu.
Canucks winger Todd Bertuzzi was given an indefinite suspension after his infamous sucker-punch of Avalanche forward Steve Moore in 2004, though he only missed 20 games due to the NHL lockout the following season.
What happens to Wideman will likely depend on whether or not NHL officials believe he was of the right mind when he leveled Henderson on Wednesday night.
If he was out of it, a short suspension should suffice.
If he wasn’t, he should sit for a good, long time.