After watching the final minutes of regulation of Game 6 in the Islanders-Panthers first round series, I was all ready to perch my soap box atop my high horse, which was balancing on my ivory tower.
With New York’s net empty in the dying moments, there were two trips that could have been called – one on Vincent Trocheck, the other Reilly Smith – infractions that either negated Panthers’ chances to seal the game, or at least given the Islanders a penalty. You could argue there was a tad of embellishment on the Smith fall, but it was borderline. Instead of a minor being called in either instance, the refs “let them play” and we all know the result.
Sadly, we cannot ask Pat Quinn what he thinks of the NHL’s implementation of a coach’s challenge for offside calls. As it was with almost any subject from World War II strategy to the neutral zone trap, it would have been very interesting to hear the former coaching great’s perspective on it.
Your trusty correspondent has been covering this game for almost 30 years and they have never seen a coach who had a deeper disdain for officials than Quinn did. And the roots of that go back to May 24, 1980. And if you want to talk about how one of these overturned calls can change a game or a series, consider the fact that not one, but two were not overturned that day had an enormous impact on a series, a career and a legacy.
So 44 days and 19 games after the Dennis Wideman Affair began, we’re where most observers predicted we would be – with Wideman being hit with a 10-game suspension for abusing an official.
And nobody is particularly happy with this. The NHL, which originally mandated a 20-game suspension that was upheld in an appeal to the commissioner, said in a statement, “We strenuously disagree with the Arbitrator’s ruling and are reviewing the opinion in detail to determine what next steps may be appropriate.” That’s code for, “Don’t be surprised to see this thing end up in court.”
In his ruling upholding Dennis Wideman’s 20-game suspension for physical abuse of an official, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman did not mince words. Not one little bit. Not only did he not accept the NHL Players’ Association’s notion that Wideman’s actions were the result of the effects of a concussion, but he crushed it, cast it aside and argued it basically had no shred of validity.
In a 22-page explanation of his ruling that made for compelling reading, Bettman made it clear that he agreed with the suspension that was brought down by senior vice president of hockey operations Colin Campbell. In fact, he made it clear that rescinding or reducing the suspension was not even considered. In fact, Bettman said he believed Wideman acted out of character – but was not impaired – and that was the main factor that deterred him from imposing a suspension that was even longer.
The NHL announced Thursday morning that Winnipeg Jets center Alexander Burmistrov has been fined $2,000 for violating Rule 64, which deals with diving and embellishment. Burmistrov is the seventh player to receive a fine for diving, joining teammate Nikolaj Ehlers, Jordin Tootoo and Bobby Farnham of the New Jersey Devils, Jannik Hansen of the Vancouver Canucks, Zack Smith of the Ottawa Senators, and Teemu Pulkkinen of the Detroit Red Wings.
The NHL, which fines players and coaches on a graduated scale for such infractions really seems to have a bee in its bonnet for players who repeatedly dive and embellish in an attempt to draw penalties. Talk to any of the “hockey people” in the league’s head office and they see diving as an enormous blight on the game.
There’s a good chance Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman will become the first player in NHL history to have his suspension appealed to an independent arbitrator, but that’s not what will make this process so interesting over the next little while.
As has been widely reported, Wideman was suspended 20 games for abuse of official after crosschecking linesman Don Henderson from behind in a 2-1 loss to the Nashville Predators. The NHL Players’ Association has already filed an appeal on Wideman’s behalf, which is expected to be heard by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman early next week. If a further appeal is necessary, it will go to James Oldham, the league- and NHLPA-appointed independent arbitrator.
We’re likely going to hear a lot over the next little while about Dennis Wideman’s “intent” when he drilled linesman Don Henderson from behind, an action which earned him a 20-game suspension from the NHL for abuse of official.
There is the camp that believes there was no ill intent on Wideman’s part, that it was an unfortunate accident and that Wideman was perhaps a little dazed from the hit along the boards that he took from Nashville Predators winger Miikka Salomaki, a hit that occurred about 8.65 seconds before Wideman took Henderson out with a crosscheck from behind.
One of the more interesting discipline hearings of this season will take place this afternoon when Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman defends himself at the NHL offices in Toronto. Suffice to say there are a number of moving parts at work here.
The NHL is faced with a vexing situation. On one hand, if it does not suspend Wideman at least 10 games for abuse of an official, there is little doubt the on-ice officials who work the 1,230 games each season will not be happy. Linesman Don Henderson reportedly spent a night in hospital after being crosschecked from behind by Wideman in the Flames 2-1 loss to the Nashville Predators last Wednesday and the officials, quite understandably, are concerned about their workplace safety.