Some key takeaways from the NHL upholding Wideman’s suspension

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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.

Blackhawks’ Boris Katchouk sidelined by ankle sprain

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CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced.

The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.

The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.

The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.

Ducks’ Urho Vaakanainen crashes into boards, leaves on stretcher

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.

The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.

The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.

Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.

The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.

Lightning donate $2 million to Hurricane Ian relief efforts

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TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning and team owner Jeff Vinik are donating $2 million toward Hurricane Ian relief efforts.

The NHL team announced that $1 million each will be donated by the Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation and the Vinik Family Foundation.

“This is a tragic situation for many families and communities across the state of Florida, but especially so in the southwest region of the state,” Vinik said in a statement released by the team. “In times like these the most important thing we can do is support one another, and we hope this donation will help families recover and rebuild in the months to come.”

Ian made landfall Wednesday on Florida’s Gulf Coast, south of the Tampa Bay area. The Lightning postponed two home preseason games and moved the club’s training camp to Nashville, Tennessee, during the storm.

Maple Leafs sign defenseman Rasmus Sandin to 2-year deal

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TORONTO — Rasmus Sandin has signed a two-year, $2.8 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the club announced on Thursday.

The 22-year-old from Sweden was the 29th overall selection in the 2018 draft. Sandin had 16 points in 51 games with Toronto last season. He’s played in 88 career regular-season games, with six goals and 22 assists, and has one goal in five playoff games.

“Got a great set of tools,” fellow defenseman Jake Muzzin said. “With experience, I think they’re only going to get better.”

The signing comes as the Leafs’ blueliners been hit hard by injuries. Muzzin has been dealing with a back issue, and Timothy Liljegren recently had surgery for a hernia.

Toronto then lost Jamie Benn (groin) and Carl Dahlstrom (shoulder) in Wednesday’s 3-0 preseason victory over the Montreal Canadiens, pressing forwards Calle Jarnkrok and Alexander Kerfoot into defensive roles for two periods.