Gary Bettman Upholds Dennis Wideman Suspension Based on Text Message Sent to Teammate

dennis wideman suspension

Nobody was shocked on Wednesday when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman upheld the 20-game Dennis Wideman suspension. What was surprising was Bettman’s reasoning—specifically, his reliance on a text message in determining whether Wideman was truly sorry for colliding with linesman Don Henderson.

The Calgary Flames’ defenseman says his collision with Henderson on January 27 was accidental. He says he was woozy after taking a shot to the head on the previous play and didn’t see Henderson until it was too late. Unfortunately, in the video of the incident, it’s quite clear that Wideman did not have his head down, that he made no real effort to avoid hitting Henderson, and that, after running into the linesman, he actually followed through with his hands like you would when checking an opponent.

While it may be the case that Wideman is telling the truth, the NHL really had no choice but to suspend him.

However, that’s not what Bettman said on Wednesday when he rejected Wideman’s appeal. Instead, what he said was this:

“I am troubled by Mr. Wideman’s total failure to accept any responsibility for his actions. Indeed, although he made much at the hearing about the apologies he had already made to Mr. Henderson, the sincerity of those apologies rings somewhat hollow given the text message he sent to a teammate on Feb. 2 — after the conclusion of the hearing before Mr. Campbell — that ‘the only problem and the only reason I’m here is cause the stupid refs and stupid media.'”

It’s the use of that text message as justification for the suspension that has raised some eyebrows. Does it make Wideman look unsympathetic and unapologetic? Yes. But it was presented in the hearing and to the public out of context, and it was a text to a friend, not a statement to the media. People fire off angry texts to friends all the time that do not necessarily express the true content of their heart. And in this case, Wideman had just left a hearing with NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell in which he believed he was being unfairly punished for something he says he didn’t mean to do. Why wouldn’t he vent his frustration to a friend?

Is it just me, or is it kind of crazy to judge Wideman’s sincerity based on a text message?

Hat Tip – [CBC]

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