CALGARY, AB -- Dennis Wideman addressed his situation.
But before delving into his disappointment over being handed a 20-game suspension Wednesday for conduct violative of Rule 40 (Physical Abuse of Officials) stemming from an incident in Calgary's 2-1 loss against the Nashville Predators on Jan. 27, Wideman first apologized to the man on the opposite end of the collision.
Linesman Don Henderson.
“I feel awful about what happened,” Wideman said Thursday, his first words since addressing the collision in post-game scrum eight days ago. “Hopefully he’s recovering and is going to be back on the ice soon. I feel really bad about the whole situation. The last seven days has been tough.
“Never in my career have I ever disrespected or done anything like this to an official. I think I’ve prided myself on having a great working relationship with the officials and I hope to continue that when I get out there.”
Wideman was skating to the Flames bench when he collided with Henderson. He had been hit awkwardly into the boards by Predators forward Miikka Salomaki moments earlier.
The NHL suspended Wideman for 20 games for the event, which occurred at 11:19 of the second period.
“I’m really disappointed with the decision in the length of the suspension,” Wideman said. “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. I’m pretty disappointed with the decision.”
The National Hockey League Players' Association said it has filed an appeal on Wideman’s behalf. Pending the appeal, Wideman isn’t eligible to return until March 14 in a game against the St. Louis Blues.
Flames president of hockey operations Brian Burke also expressed his disagreement in the terms of the suspension in a statement issued by the team.
“We disagree with the severity of today's suspension ruling and maintain that Dennis' collision with the linesman was unintentional and accidental,” Burke said via the statement. “We agree that our officials' safety and well-being is of extreme importance in order to allow them to perform their duties. They perform an invaluable but underappreciated role in our game. We support sanctions against players who make deliberate contact with any official. However, unintentional and accidental contact does occur at times in our game.”
Wideman thanked the Flames organization and fans in his statement, and stressed support for officials in the past, including longtime linesman Mike Cvik, who officiated his final game on Jan. 5 in Calgary.
“The organization, [GM Brad Treliving] and company have done a great job helping me out and helping me with the hearing last week and obviously the NHLPA, too,” he said. “I think in the past our organization has done a great job of honoring linesmen and officials just as recently as Mike Cvik, and our fans, too.
“When we sent him off the ice after the game they gave him a standing ovation. I think that’s something that shows how we feel about the officials of this league and that’s something I want to be a part of going forward.”