The day after the National Hockey League handed down the longest suspension in league history involving an official, Calgary Flames defenceman Dennis Wideman was back on the ice with his teammates Thursday morning.
Wideman spoke publicly for the first time after practice, and began with an apology to linesman Don Henderson.
“I want to apologize to Donny Henderson. I know I feel awful about what happened… hopefully he’s recovering and will be back on the ice soon, but I feel really bad about the whole situation,” Wideman said. “The last seven days have been tough.”
“As far as the suspension goes, I’m really disappointed with the decision and the length of the suspension. I did not have any intent, at any time, to hit the official or hurt him or anything like that. I would never do something like that and I’m pretty disappointed with the decision.”
Wideman was suspended 20 games on Wednesday for his collision with Henderson during the second period of a game on Jan. 27.
Watch below: Flames Dennis Wideman sends linesman to ice with hit from behind
Flames players continued to support their teammate Thursday, and many were surprised to see the length of suspension.
“From our point of view, it’s a little harsh…well, it’s a lot harsh from our point of view,” Flames captain Mark Giordano said. “In my opinion, he tried to avoid it and you gotta believe him.”
“We’re here to support our teammate in Wides [Wideman],” Flames forward Matt Stajan said. “Obviously that’s way more than we thought he’d get, but it is what it is.”
A suspension explanation video released by the NHL confirmed Wideman was diagnosed with a concussion after the game.
“But even assuming the player’s claim that he was disoriented as a result of the Salomaki check, Wideman still cannot be excused from the nature and severity of the offence he committed on the ice.”
Flames head coach Bob Hartley said Wideman has cleared concussion protocol in order to return to the ice.
WATCH: Dennis Wideman issues a statement on his 20-game suspension
The NHLPA has appealed the decision on behalf of Wideman, issuing a statement on Wednesday.
“We strongly disagree with the League’s decision to suspend Dennis Wideman. Dennis has played in 11 NHL seasons and almost 800 games without incident. The facts, including the medical evidence presented at the hearing, clearly demonstrate that Dennis had no intention to make contact with the linesman. An appeal has been filed on the player’s behalf.”
The appeal will be heard by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.
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