Dennis menaces an official

Overshadowed by all of the news coming from the Super Bowl and college football’s national singing day was a lengthy suspension handed down by the National Hockey League.

Calgary Flames defenseman (or defeceman for those you in Canada) Dennis Wideman was suspended 20 games by Commissioner Gary Bettman for cross checking linesman Don Henderson during a January 27 game vs. the Nashville Predators. Wideman was knocked off balance along the boards, then as he was about to come off for a line change, he plowed into Henderson.

Wideman claims he was woozy from earlier hits and that he did not barrel into Henderson on purpose. He claims it was an accident, which is what Flames president Brian Burke argued to the league in hoping the suspension would not be as severe.

I saw the replay several times. Wideman is lying.

Cross checking is a penalty if it is done by one player to another. It’s lifting the stick off the ice with both hands, turning it sideways and clubbing a player, usually in the face or neck. A cross checking penalty is a minimum of two minutes, but many are ruled major penalties, leading to five minutes in the penalty box for the offender. And if the penalty is a major, the team must play short-handed for the full five minutes. On a minor penalty, the player can come back if the opponent scores on the power play.

You cannot tell me Wideman “accidentally” picked up his stick with both hands and “accidentally” jammed it into Henderson. This was an intentional act, and as far as I’m concerned, Wideman may have gotten off light with a 20-game suspension. He’ll forfeit almost $565,000 (CDN$777,250) in salary.

I’ve seen my fair share of horrible officiating in high schoool, college and professional sports. However, it does an athlete, coach or spectator the license to physically assault an official.

The Flames repeatedly have stressed Wideman had never been previously disciplined by the NHL. He has never been penalized more than 83 minutes in a given season, so the statistics back up Calgary’s boast. However, this incident was way too severe, way too ugly to overlook. It’s the same as if someone with no criminal record goes out and kills another person, whether it be drunk driving or shooting. It must be punished.

I recall in October 1983, Tom Lysiak of the Chicago Black Hawks (yes, I know it’s spelled Blackhawks, but back then, it was spelled Black Hawks; that’s another discussion for another day) intentionally tripped linesman Ron Foyt during a game vs. Hartford. Lysiak had been ejected from the faceoff circle, and after the puck was dropped, Lysiak ignored the Whalers’ Sylvain Turgeon and immediately went for Foyt, pulling his feet out from under him with his stick. Referee Dave Newell immediately handed down a 20-game suspension to Lysiak (at that time, NHL referees had the power to hand out discipline without consent of then-president John Ziegler), which was appealed by Lysiak and the Hawks, who took the case to federal court before losing.

Lysiak had not been known as a dirty player before the incident, and was a solid player for the Atlanta Flames throughout the 1970s. However, the incident could not go unpunished, even with Lysiak’s previously exemplary record.

I do not like Gary Bettman. I hate what he has done to the NHL. I despise the man for putting teams in Miami, Tampa, Atlanta and Nashville, and allowing teams to leave hockey hotbeds Quebec City, Winnipeg and Hartford, especially considering the Jets moved to Arizona and the Whalers to Raliegh-Durham. Hockey does not belong anywhere south of Interstate 70, except for ONE team in Los Angeles. Canada could support 15 teams if need be.

I understand Denver getting a team, but I would have preferred it not be the Nordiques, the team I rooted for most when I started watching the NHL over 30 years ago.

In this case, Bettman showed backbone, backbone which has been seriously lacking from his office. Now, Gary, just bring back hockey to Quebec City and some may be forgiven.

About David

I am a sportswriter for a group of weekly newspapers in small towns across northern Kansas. I grew up in New Orleans, went to college at LSU and wandered in the wilderness until Hurricane Katrina finally put me on the path to my current job.

Posted on February 3, 2016, in NHL and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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