CALGARY, AB -- It’s been a long six-week wait for Dennis Wideman.
The Calgary Flames defenceman has served 18 games of a 20-game suspension, and is still waiting to hear the result of a final appeal to an independent arbitrator.
“I think at the beginning I didn’t expect it to take this long,” said Wideman, speaking to media Wednesday. “As we went into it and started to see the hearings, and the space between them…and there are a lot of people that have to come to those hearings, and a lot of people that have busy schedules and trying to get that many people to get to New York takes some time. It definitely took a little bit.
“It’s been tough. It’s been a long time. It’s been a long process. You try to deal with it and stay as positive as I can be, especially when I’m around the guys and stuff like that, but it’s been difficult, for sure.”
The NHLPA requested the appeal after NHL commissioner Gary Bettman upheld Wideman's 20-game suspension on Feb. 17 for conduct violative of Rule 40 (Physical Abuse of Officials) during NHL Game No. 742 in Calgary on Wednesday, Jan. 27.
The third-party appeal process to neutral arbitrator James Oldham began two weeks ago.
“There is nothing we can do about this. It’s a process,” Flames coach Bob Hartley said. “There was like three episodes so that’s the way it is. It’s written in the book and everyone agrees in the CBA to those terms and whenever an incident like this happens those are situations we have to go through and we’re almost at the end of it.”
The case marks the first time a player has opted appeal a suspension with the neutral arbitrator since the option was installed into the last collective bargaining agreement in early 2013.
“It’s been a bit up and down,” Wideman said. “There’s some times I’ve been pretty frustrated and other times I understand this takes a while and there’s a lot to go into it. Right now I’m just concentrated on making sure I’m ready to go whenever the decision comes and whenever I’m eligible to play again.”
Various reports indicate an announcement could come as early as Wednesday.
“I don’t know for sure when it’s going to be,” Wideman said. “There’s been no date of when they’re going to release, whether it’s today, tomorrow, or Friday or Saturday. All I’m concentrating on is trying to get ready and when it does come down, being ready to play and help.”
The incident, involving linesman Don Henderson, occurred at 11:19 of the second period of a 2-1 loss against the Nashville Predators.
The Flames host the Predators on Wednesday.
“It’s my understanding that if something where to come down before the game tonight that I would be eligible to play, obviously, if it changes at all,” Wideman said. “I’m preparing today to play today and if not, then Friday or Monday.”