Mike Halford

NHLPA ‘extremely disappointed’ Bettman upheld Wideman suspension, will appeal to neutral arbitrator


As most expected, the National Hockey League Players’ Association will appeal NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s decision to uphold Dennis Wideman‘s 20-game ban for hitting linesman Don Henderson.

More, from the union:

“We are extremely disappointed but not surprised that Gary Bettman upheld the decision of his staff to suspend Dennis Wideman for 20 games.

“This decision completely ignores the effects of the concussion that Dennis sustained when he was driven into the boards eight seconds before colliding with the linesman.

“We will appeal to the Neutral Discipline Arbitrator in order to have this decision overturned.”

The Neutral Discipline Arbitrator is James C. Oldham, a law professor at Georgetown University that also worked as a salary arbitrator for Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association.


Burke blasts Bettman for ‘incomprehensible’ time it took for Wideman ruling


Brian Burke appeared on Sportsnet’s Tim & Sid in the wake of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman upholding Dennis Wideman‘s 20-game suspension for hitting linesman Don Henderson — and, as you might expect, was none too pleased with the way things unfolded.

“To take a week to rubber-stamp a decision that was made by the hockey operations department of the National Hockey League — as games tick off for my player, that affect my team’s ability to win, that affect playoff races, that affect competitive balance — is incomprehensible to me,” Burke fumed.

He also noted Calgary had been asking for an appeal hearing result for “several days.”

Wideman’s appeal was heard on Feb. 10 (last Wednesday, seven days ago). Per a release by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, that hearing was approximately six hours in length.

Burke didn’t object to just the timing and drawn-out nature of the appeal, however.

Much like he did in a statement released back in early February, he said he and the organization disagreed with the length and severity of Wideman’s original suspension ruling.

“We disagree vehemently with the the decision that was reached here,” Burke explained. “We were astonished by it, we don’t understand it, we disagree with it completely.

“We’re not questioning the integrity of the process. The appeal has gone to the commissioner. If all he’s going to do is rubber-stamp it, we accept that. But then do it quickly, so it can get to this third party.”

That third party?

It’s fair to see why Burke is upset about the time it’s taken for Wideman’s appeal process to play out. The Flames defenseman has already sat out seven games, with No. 8 coming tonight against Minnesota.

Noting it’ll take a few days for Widemans’ appeal to reach a neutral arbitrator, Burke suggested his player was “virtually guaranteed” to miss 10 games.

Some key takeaways from the NHL upholding Wideman’s suspension


Here are a few of the more intriguing aspects of commissioner Gary Bettman’s decision to uphold Dennis Wideman’s 20-game suspension for hitting linesman Don Henderson:

The NHL had access to Wideman’s text messages

This is the development that’s getting the most play right now, especially on social media.

In his ruling, Bettman writes “although [Wideman] made much at the hearing about the apologies he had already made to Mr. Henderson, the sincerity of those apologies rings somewhat hollow given the text message he sent to a teammate on February 2 —- after the conclusion of the hearing before Mr. Campbell —- that “[t]he only problem and the only reason I’m here is cause the stupid refs and stupid media.”

The NHL cast doubt on whether Wideman was actually concussed or not

In Bettman’s cross-examination of neuropsychologist Dr. Paul Comper — who the NHLPA used to analyze/interview Wideman, and later called to testify as an expert in clinical neuropsychology — the following occurred:

Q. And you would agree with me that Mr. Wideman certainly had, at least potentially, the motive to exaggerate his symptoms in order to obtain a report that said he wasn’t responsible for his actions, that’s at least a possibility, isn’t it?

A. It’s a possibility.

Q And you didn’t discuss that in your report, did you?

A. No.

The league also took issue with the fact that neither Comper nor Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher — also brought in by the NHLPA — physically evaluated Wideman. Both spoke with the Calgary defenseman via FaceTime, and took his word for how he felt at the time.

The league had also previously seemed skeptical of Wideman’s concussion.

“It is accepted for the purposes of this decision that [Wideman] was later diagnosed as having suffered a concussion,” the NHL explained at the time of the original 20-game suspension ruling. “However, that fact even accepted as true, cannot excuse Wideman’s subsequent actions.

“First, although he appears to get up slowly from being checked, Wideman skates steadily and purposefully to his bench, taking a half dozen strides to get there. Wideman also demonstrates his continued awareness of his circumstances and surroundings when, upon approaching the Calgary blueline, he raises his stick and taps it on the ice to alert his teammates that he’s coming off for a line change.”

The league also made mention of the fact Wideman refused medical attention while on the bench, and remained in the game.

The league didn’t want a “concussion defense precedent” to be set

This ties into the above. Bettman writes:

In short, the record as a whole does not support the contention that Mr. Wideman’s actions were the result of confusion, a failure of “impulse control” or a loss of balance.

Moreover, to find on a record such as this one that the Player was not responsible for the consequences of his actions would set a precedent that could be easily manipulated in the future in a way that would make the game more dangerous for all participants, including players.

The thought here, obviously, is that a Pandora’s Box could be opened in which players would excuse their on-ice behavior — and transgressions — because they’d just been shaken up, with that influencing their decision-making.

The NHLPA didn’t asked for a reduced suspension. It asked for no suspension at all.

From Bettman:

Although the NHLPA acknowledged that I have the authority to reduce the suspension imposed by Mr. Campbell, the Union did not actually request a reduced suspension, maintaining at all times that no suspension is warranted.

This is an interesting development, if only because the union has successfully reduced suspensions in the past — in 2012, the PA got Raffi Torres’ 25-game suspension reduced to 21. Now, the circumstances are different in the Wideman case, because asking for a reduction rather than no suspension could be seen as an admission of guilt.

However, it’s worth noting that had the suspension been reduced, Wideman could’ve been back in action sooner. He’s already sat out seven games.

Goalie nods: Streaking Lundqvist looks to stymie Chicago

Henrik Lundqvist

Henrik Lundqvist will aim to continue his stellar run of play tonight when the Rangers host the Blackhawks in New York.

Lundqvist is 5-1-0 in the month of February — allowing three goals or fewer in each of his six appearances — but it’s his recent run over the last three games that’s really impressive.

Monday, Feb. 8: stopped 27 of 28 shots in a 2-1 win over New Jersey

Wednesday, Feb. 10: stopped all 34 shots faced in a 3-0 shutout win over Pittsburgh

Sunday, Feb 14: stopped 21 of 22 shots in a 3-1 win over Philadelphia.

Unsurprisingly, Lundqvist’s run of good play has bolstered his overall numbers on the year: 28-14-4 record, 2.29 GAA, .924 save percentage. He does certainly face a tall order tonight, though, against a Chicago team that exploded for seven goals in Monday’s beating of the Maple Leafs.

The ‘Hawks will have Corey Crawford in goal.


Ben Scrivens will look to bounce back from a tough performance last time out, as he and the Habs take on Colorado. Semyon Varlamov starts for the Avs.

Devan Dubnyk looks for his second straight win tonight in Calgary. The Flames will go back to Jonas Hiller after he was hooked on Monday against Anaheim. Calgary also announced today that Karri Ramo is done for the year with a torn ACL.

Oilers lose potential trade chip Gryba (knee) for one month

Anders Nilsson, Eric Gryba, Matt Hendricks
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The knee injury suffered by physical blueliner Eric Gryba in Edmonton’s loss to Anaheim last night will keep him sidelined for at least a month, the club announced on Thursday.

It could be a costly ailment with regards to GM Peter Chiarelli’s trade deadline strategy. More, from the Edmonton Journal:

[Gryba’s] an unrestricted free agent this summer, though, which makes him a prime candidate to be moved at the Feb. 29 trade deadline. He’s also a strong, experienced reliable defenceman, which also makes him very attractive to any team looking for blue-line depth in the post-season.

On the basis of those points alone he should be advised against buying any green bananas between now and the end of the month, but Gryba has no plans to change his routine based on probabilities.

“I have no idea what will happen, I try not to think about it,” he said. “Obviously you have to think about it a little, but you try not to let the mind wander too much because the possibilities are endless, anything can happen.”

Gryba, 27, is a big body at 6-foot-4, 228 pounds and has been a consistent presence in the Oilers lineup this year, averaging just under 18 minutes in 53 games played, with a goal and six points.

He’s also got a handful of postseason experience, appearing in 10 games for Ottawa from 2012-15.