One of the most contentious issues in Dennis Wideman‘s appeal of a 20-game suspension for hitting linesman Don Henderson — NHL commissioner Gary Bettman obtaining Wideman’s cell phone and text records, and using them as evidence — has become a real can of worms.
The latest issue? Who exactly Wideman was in conversation with.
The key text message in question, where Wideman wrote “the only reason I’m here is the stupid refs and stupid media,” was sent to Flames captain Mark Giordano, the NHL told TSN.
But in Wideman’s appeal to third-party neutral arbitrator James Oldham, Oldham — who reduced the suspension to 10 games — suggested the text was sent to Columbus forward Gregory Campbell.
That’s Gregory Campbell, the son of NHL senior VP Colin Campbell, who handed down the 20-game suspension.
Appropriately, the parties involved have engaged in something resembling a game of telephone to explain their positions. In a fairly lengthy interview with the Dispatch, Gregory Campbell admitted he exchanged texts with his “good friend” Wideman following the incident.
“Obviously my dad made the ruling. Dennis leaned on me for support. As a friend and as a player, I support Dennis. I know what kind of person he is.
“They took his phone and they had exchanges between him and I on the phone.”
Campbell and Wideman have never played together, but they’re part of the same workout group and spend their off-seasons in the same Canadian city.
“He knew my dad was doing the hearing and wanted to lean on me for support,” Campbell said. “I fully supported Dennis. I know it’s a tough call, but I know the type of person he is. I didn’t think it was intentional.”
Campbell said he doesn’t recall the specifics of his conversations with Wideman, so there’s no way of knowing if he received a “stupid refs, stupid media” text.
Wideman, in a conversation with Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos, lent credence to notion Giordano was the one that received the text in question:
(It should be noted the possibility exists that Campbell and Giordano received the same type of “stupid refs, stupid media” text, and that both may have been accessed by Bettman and Oldham.)
Regardless of who received the text in question, or how it was analyzed and interpreted, this whole situation has cast further doubt on the appeal process.
There’s some serious undermining at hand, and one has to think everything — especially the “turn over your cell phone” part — will be scrutinized when (or, if) the NHL and NHLPA decide to review how the suspension appeal process works.
Related: NHL Officials’ Association ‘strongly disagrees’ with the decision to reduce Wideman’s suspension