Flames rally behind Dennis Wideman regardless of suspension ruling
CALGARY – Tuesday was judgment day for Flames defenceman Dennis Wideman.
Mentally, there was no All Star “break” for the 32-year-old NHL veteran.
While NHL players around the league just got back to work fresh off the five-day long All-Star break, Wideman flew to Toronto to meet with NHL officials for a disciplinary hearing for checking and knocking down linesman Don Henderson in a game Jan. 27.
During the second period of the Flames’ game against Nashville, Wideman got up after being hit and was skating toward the Flames’ bench when he cross-checked Henderson, who had his back to the defenceman.
Wideman said he was in pain after taking a hit from the Predators’ Miikka Salomaki moments before and was just trying to get off the ice, adding that he couldn’t avoid Henderson.
At the next stoppage in play, Wideman skated over to where the officials were gathered and apologized.
WATCH: Flames Dennis Wideman sends linesman to ice with hit from behind.
“I took a pretty hard hit down in the corner and had some pretty good pain in my shoulder and my neck and I was just trying to get off the ice and I was kind of keeled over and at the last second, I looked up and I saw him and I couldn’t avoid it,” Wideman said.
Flames general manager Brad Treliving and Flames president of hockey operations Brian Burke joined Wideman for the hearing Tuesday and the NHLPA represented him.
Meanwhile, Wideman’s teammates had just wrapped up practice in Calgary with him in their thoughts. Flames Captain Mark Giordano is sticking by his linemate no matter what the NHL’s verdict is and said people should look at Wideman’s track record before questioning his character.
“You look at his numbers and the amount of games he’s played, he’s had a clean record. I think if you talk to a lot of guys in the league that’s played with Wide’s, they’ll all say the same thing,” said Giordano.
“It must be tough, I mean we support him obviously as teammates but more importantly – as friends,” said Giordano.
Wideman is in his 11th NHL season, and fourth with the Flames. He entered the game with 94 career goals, 275 assists and 471 penalty minutes. He has two goals, 19 points and 30 penalty minutes this season.
“You know, Wide’s (Dennis Wideman) is a big part of our team. He’s a great player on the ice, but off the ice too – a guy who has a voice in this room,” said Giordano.
“If you know him off the ice you’ll know he’s a great guy and he didn’t have the intent there,” said Giordano.
According to reports, Colin Campbell – director of hockey operations for the NHL, was in charge of the process and was considering all angles in deciding how long to suspend Wideman.
Wideman was suspended indefinitely pending Tuesday’s hearing, where he would get anything from a three- to 20-game suspension. It all depended on whether he had intent to injure the official.
“There’s going to be a lot of things said about him, and a lot of things written but everyone who’s met Dennis or had a chance to play with him, know the type of guy he is,” said Giordano. “It’s going to be tough on him and it’s been tough on him obviously, reading all the negative things about him but I’m sure a lot of people have good things to say about him as well.”
Early Tuesday, before the hearing, Flames head coach Bob Hartley would not consider addressing the possibility of Wideman being out long term until an official decision had come down.
“For us, right now we’re preparing for the game tomorrow (Wednesday) night. Will Dennis Wideman be in or not? We’re going to find out,” said Hartley. “We will adjust accordingly – one way or the other.”
Flames Defenceman Ladislav Smid will step in to fill Wideman’s position on the blue line. Smid has played 14 games this season and been a healthy scratch for most of the rest.
“Obviously you don’t want to get in the lineup this way. I feel bad for Wide’s,’ said Smid.
The Flames bench has stayed solid when it comes to their teammate’s actions, despite the prevailing circumstances surroundingWideman’s hit.
“I think we have been sticking together the whole year. We have a great group of guys and we stand up for each other,” said Smid.
Regardless of the reason for being put in the lineup, Smid looks at it as an opportunity for him to get some regularity on the ice.
“I want to be in the lineup every night. It sucks watching it from the press box and not being able to do anything about a game. The opportunity is here and I’m going to try and grab it, and hold on to it,” said Smid.
According to NHL rules, the minimum suspension a player could face for intentionally checking a referee or linesman is 20 games.
The Flames first game back after the All Star break is Wednesday at the Scotiabank Saddledome against the Carolina Hurricanes. Puck drop is 7:30 p.m. in their first of a two-game homestand.
With files from The Canadian Press