Dennis Wideman is scheduled to be in the Flames lineup Friday night after an independent arbitrator ruled to reduce the defenceman's suspension.
Wideman was suspended after crosschecking linesman Don Henderson during a game in Calgary on January 27. 2016.
The league suspended Wideman for 20 games for the hit and the NHLPA appealed the decision through an independent arbitrator. On Friday, a decision was made to reduce Wideman's suspension from 20 games down to 10.
“We are grateful that the finding was made that the contact was not made with any intent to injure the official,” said Brian Burke. “We also fully support sanctions against players who make deliberate contact with officials.”
“Our goal is to put this all behind us now and we consider the matter closed.”
In his ruling, arbitrator James Oldham said that given Wideman's clean 11-year record, "there is no occasion to go beyond the 10-game minimum" stipulated in the NHL rule book.
Wideman has already served 19 games of the suspension while waiting for the appeal to be decided. It's expected he'll be awarded approximately $282,000 in lost salary,
Burke says the team says will not seek compensation for being without Wideman for additional games as well as the fact General Manager Brad Treliving was required to attend hearings in the weeks leading up to the trade deadline.
“The league doesn’t choose when these events occur.”
The Wideman case was the first time a neutral discipline arbitrator has ruled on an NHL suspension and Burke says it would be counterproductive to question the length of time the process took.
“It has to be expedited for the next player that goes through this,” said Burke. “You have to respect the fact this is uncharted waters for everybody.”
Prior to the introduction of the independent arbitrator, NHL commisioner Gary Bettman heard Wideman's initial appeal and ruled against it.
“The NHL and the NHLPA spent a lot of time on this and this is the system they devised. Far be it from us to complain about it or suggest there’s a better way to do it.”
During his Friday afternoon media availability, Burke took a moment to wish Don Henderson a speedy recovery as the veteran linesman has yet to return to the ice following the incident,