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March 15, 2017
On Wednesday, Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo Sports reported the NHL lost an appeal of a neutral arbitrator’s decision to reduce Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman’s suspension from 20 games to 10 for hitting a linesman.
Wideman hit linesman Don Henderson in a game on Jan. 27, 2016, and was initially suspended 20 games, but he and the NHLPA appealed to neutral arbitrator James Oldham, who reduced the penalty to 10 games.
The NHL appealed that decision to a New York district court judge, but that judge decided Wednesday the reduction of the penalty was “within the scope” of the arbitrator’s ruling, per Wyshynski.
The NHL released a statement on the decision, per NHL.com:
We obviously disagree with the court’s decision today, but also recognize the very high judicial standard we needed to meet to disturb the arbitrator’s decision. While we believe we met that standard, we are prepared to turn the page and move on. We are hopeful that, if and when there is next an appeal proceeding involving supplementary discipline, the Neutral Discipline Arbitrator will properly apply the standard of review we and the NHLPA negotiated and agreed to in collective bargaining. That was clearly not done in this case.
Wyshynski noted Wideman’s hit concussed the linesman and prompted the NHL to turn to Rule 40.2 in handing out the initial 20-game suspension. The rule says “any player who deliberately strikes an official and causes injury or who deliberately applies physical force in any manner against an official with intent to injure.”
The NHLPA said in its appeal Wideman was concussed by a hit that occurred right before he struck the linesman, but NHL commissioner Gary Bettman upheld the 20-game suspension at first even upon appeal.
That’s when Wideman and the NHLPA turned to Oldham, although Wyshynski wrote the NHL fired Oldham and said he “overstepped his stated duties” by reviewing evidence himself instead of just deciding whether Bettman’s punishment was supported by said evidence.
Even though Oldham was fired, New York Southern District Judge Alison J. Nathan upheld the suspension reduction Wednesday.
As for Wideman, he has 17 points in 54 games this season for a Flames team that is 39-26-4 and in second place in the Pacific Division behind the San Jose Sharks.