The linesman knocked to the ice by Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman in January is still recovering from the concussion he suffered and is out for the season, according to the NHL Officials Association.
In a statement emailed to The Associated Press by a league spokesman Saturday morning, the NHLOA said it “strongly disagrees” with the decision by an independent arbitrator to reduce Wideman’s suspension from 20 games to 10. Arbitrator James Oldham made that ruling Friday.
“The message in reducing the suspension that is sent to NHL players, as well as athletes all over the world, including children, is that the code of conduct towards officials has changed,” the NHLOA said.
Wideman struck Don Henderson during the second period of a game against Nashville on Jan. 27. Both finished the game but were diagnosed with concussions.
“Both of them testified that they can remember almost nothing about what happened during the minutes immediately after their heads hit the glass or the boards,” Oldham wrote in his 18-page opinion.
Henderson hit his head on the boards on the way down. At Wideman’s disciplinary hearing, Henderson testified that he felt as if he “got hit by a bus.”
The NHL suspended Wideman 20 games for abuse of officials, and Commissioner Gary Bettman upheld that number on appeal. Oldham reduced it to 10 games, citing a lack of evidence that Wideman intended to injure Henderson.
Even though Wideman served 19 games of the suspension, the reduction does not sit well with officials. He will get back $282,258 of the $564,516 he was going to forfeit as a result of the suspension.
“The NHLOA intends to take all steps necessary so that its members are protected in the future and ensure that this type of conduct by a player against an official never happens again,” the association said.