After suspending Dennis Wideman indefinitely pending a hearing for his cross check to the back of linesman Don Henderson, the league then came down hard.
Because there was no penalty called on the ice in the moment, the League could have opted to hand out any suspension it so chose under rule 28. Instead, Wideman got the maximum penalty under the current Abuse of Official rule 40. This is one time where I wholeheartedly agree with the NHL in a discipline decision (see Dennis Wideman Doesn’t Make A Strong Enough Case For Me).
While I’m temporarily ecstatic, the worst part about a high profile suspension is that as soon as the penalty is announced, the speculation starts about whether or not there will be an appeal. Wideman’s next step, if he so chooses, is to appeal to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. Most are predicting he will, and I tend to agree with that, not based on justifability (is that a word?), but based on his defence. If what he said in the hearing this afternoon is anything close to his original story, Dennis Wideman claims he didn’t see Henderson until it was too late and contact was unavoidable. He also said he was woozy from a hit he had just taken, which was the reason he was going to the bench in the first place. If he truly believes this, he may truly believe he deserves a reduction to at least 10 games, the next lowest category from 20 games under the Abuse of Official rule 40 suspension guidelines.
To me, this same defence that many believe forces an appeal is the very reason the appeal should be rejected. He doesn’t say he didn’t know it was a linesman. He just says he didn’t see him until it was too late. This in no way excuses the action or makes it any less dangerous. Granted, if he had hit a player, chances are he wouldn’t have gotten anywhere close to 20 games. He’d have barely gotten 3 likely, and that would have been an embarrassment to the league. Because it was an official, that’s why the harsher penalty rules come in to play, and rightly so. This is also the key. Because the league chose rule 40 over rule 28, it kind of washes its hands. Rule 40 has black and white, predetermined suspension numbers. This isn’t a randomly selected arbitrary number of games. It’s a clear and pre-established penalty that they just have to enforce. The only appeal he can have is to try and convince people his situation relates more to the 10 game category, and based on his defence, he’s already painted himself into the 20 game corner. The appeal process becomes pointless, and we need to move on.