During the game, it was shown that Wideman was hit into the boards awkwardly as the play continued down to the other end of the ice. As Wideman made his way towards the Flames bench, he was keeled over, not looking up. As he approached the Predators bench, his head came up but we couldn't see if he noticed linesman, Don Henderson, or not. And then Wideman's arms came up and he cross-checked Henderson from behind. The linesman fell to the ice as Wideman continued to make his way onto the Flames bench.
Here's a short clip from SBNation's twitter feed (vid via @JayGold85).
What you don't see in that clip is that Wideman sat on the bench with his head down afterwards, unaware of the incident. He didn't seem fazed at all about what had happened. It makes me wonder if he even understood the severity of the situation. In his post-game interview in the locker room, he looked sincere in his explanation of the events.
Here's a video of the post-game interview from the National Post. In the interview, Wideman states, "I took a pretty hard hit...pain in my shoulder and neck...I was just trying to get off the ice." I think this is what leads people to believe that Wideman may have been suffering from concussion issues at that time, but Wideman would not comment either way whether or not he felt any concussion symptoms. He only said he felt some pain. But, my question is, if it was concussion symptoms, why did he continue to play in the third period?
Wideman also stated, "at the last second, I looked up and saw him and I couldn't avoid it...I didn't know how to get out of the way of him." Considering the angle of the camera, there's no way for us to tell if he did or did not look at Henderson before he cross-checked him. So we're left to take Wideman's word on this.
He also made it very clear that he apologized to Henderson and added, "I would never intentionally try to hit a linesman or ref." I believe this in every way because I've seen Wideman in some near misses in the past and he's done everything to try and avoid a collision.
Wideman closed by stating, "it was an accident and I feel really bad about it."
Regardless, rules are rules and Wideman clearly broke the rules. Last night, after the game, Darren Haynes tweeted out the rules governing this type of incident.
Applicable section of NHL Rule Book re: Wideman. I'm not buying 40.2 (intent to injure), but 40.3 on the other hand. pic.twitter.com/ZHsX6neolK— Darren Haynes (@DarrenWHaynes) January 28, 2016
You can also view the entire NHL rulebook online here.
Now, for the sake of arguement, let's assume that Wideman didn't have intent to injure, as he has clearly stated in his post-game interview. If that's the case, rule 40.2 would be thrown out as it applies only to situations where there is intent. Which leaves rule 40.1 and 40.3 for us to debate. Rule 40.1 doesn't apply to Wideman because it refers to moments when officials get involved in an altercation and there was no altercation at that time.
Rule 40.3 is the one I'd like to focus on. It states,
"40.3 Automatic Suspension - Category II - Any player who deliberately
applies physical force to an official in any manner (excluding actions
as set out in Category I), which physical force is applied without intent
to injure, or who spits on an official, shall be automatically suspended
for not less than ten (10) games."
The key words here are, "without intent to inure," and I think this applies to Wideman, based on what he said after the game. If the NHL looks at the post-game interview, when Wideman expressed his regret and his lack of intentions, this will be the only rule that will apply in this situation and, based on rule 40.3, Wideman should get suspended at least 10 games.
I think Wideman honestly believes he did nothing wrong in the collision with Henderson. I believe he thought it was just another bump into a linesman that happens once in a while. I don't believe he understood how bad the situation looked. Even so, he hit an official and the rules state that he should get disciplined.
What will happen to Dennis Wideman remains to be seen, but we will make sure to have all the updates as they happen here on M&G.
In spite of everything that has happened or might happen, we hope that lineman, Don Henderson, is okay. It's never a good situation when someone gets hurt in a hockey game.