The NHL Officials’ Association released a statement Saturday saying the reduction of Dennis Wideman’s suspension sends the wrong message to players, and said the injuries suffered by Don Henderson as a result of the play will keep the linesman out for the season.
Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman suited up Friday for the first time since Jan. 27 after serving 19 games of a 20-game suspension that was reduced to 10 games by a neutral arbitrator, but the NHL Officials’ Association believes the wrong message has been sent in taking games off of Wideman’s ban.
In a statement released Saturday, Officials’ Association president Dan O’Halloran said the NHLOA disagrees with the decision made by James Oldham and added that Don Henderson, the linesman hit by Wideman, won’t be back this season due to an injury that is the result of the hit from Wideman.
“The NHLOA strongly disagrees with the arbitrator’s decision to reduce Dennis Wideman’s suspension to 10 games while linesman Don Henderson continues to recover from an injury inflicted by the player that will sideline him for the rest of the season,” the statement reads, via TSN’s Bob McKenzie. “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 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.”
Henderson hasn’t worked a single game since being hit by Wideman, and it’s believed that Henderson suffered a concussion on the play. Wideman spoke following his first game back in action Friday and gave his best wishes to Henderson, but added again that he didn’t intentionally run into the linesman.
“First and foremost, I want to wish Donny Henderson a speedy recovery,” Wideman said. “I realize that he’s still working through his injuries and trying to make his way back, and I hope to see him out here, back out on the ice, as soon as possible. As far as the ruling goes, I’m happy that it was reduced to 10 games. I still maintain that it was completely accidental and that I had no intent on hitting Donny at all.”
Whether Henderson will be able to return for the post-season is still in question. During his career, he has worked more than 1,200 games and another dozen playoff tilts, according to the NHL Officials’ Association.