Calgary Flames defenceman Dennis Wideman has been suspended for 20 games by the NHL, after hitting linesman Don Henderson from behind during a game on Jan. 27.

Wideman, who will forfeit $564,516 US in salary, had been suspended indefinitely by the league ahead of Tuesday afternoon's disciplinary hearing in Toronto, is eligible to return to the lineup March 14 against St. Louis.

In the second period of a game against the Nashville Predators, Wideman was skating toward the Flames' bench when he cross-checked Henderson, who had his back to the defenceman.

Moments earlier, Wideman, 32, had taken a hit from the Predators' Miikka Salomaki.

It wasn't clear if Wideman intentionally hit the linesman, who was reportedly in attendance for Tuesday's hearing, and Wideman did not receive a penalty.

"Throughout my career and I've been around for a few years, I think I've treated every official with the utmost respect and I would never intentionally try to hit a linesman or a ref or anything like that," Wideman, a native of Kitchener, Ont., said following the game.

Longest NHL suspensions for abuse of official

  • Tom Lysiak, Chicago: 20 games in 1983
  • Andre Roy, Tampa Bay: 13 games in 2002
  • Dan Carcillo, NY Rangers: 10 games in 2014
  • Darcy Hordichuk, Phoenix: 10 games in 2002
  • Rob Ray, Buffalo: 7 games (reduced from 10) in 2001
  • Mike Peca, Columbus: 5 games in 2008

At the next stoppage, Wideman skated over to where the officials were gathered and apologized.

"I took a pretty hard hit down in the corner and had some pretty good pain in my shoulder and my neck and I was just trying to get off the ice and I was kind of keeled over and at the last second, I looked up and I saw him and I couldn't avoid it," Wideman said after the game.

The NHL Players' Association issued the following statement: "We strongly disagree with the league's decision to suspend Dennis Wideman. Dennis has played in 11 NHL seasons and almost 800 games without incident. The facts, including the medical evidence presented at the hearing, clearly demonstrate that Dennis had no intention to make contact with the linesman. An appeal has been filed on the player's behalf."

A statement was also released by Flames president of hockey operations Brian Burke: "We were informed earlier today that our player, Dennis Wideman, was suspended for contact with an official in last Wednesday's game against Nashville. We disagree with the severity of today's suspension ruling and maintain that Dennis' collision with the linesman was unintentional and accidental. 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 under-appreciated 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. We will have no further comment on the matter at this time."

The NHL rulebook states "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, or who in any manner attempts to injure an official shall be automatically suspended for not less than 20 games.

"For the purpose of the rule, 'intent to injure' shall mean any physical force which a player knew or should have known could reasonably be expected to cause injury."

Wideman has two goals and 17 assists and is minus-9 in 48 games this season. The six-foot, 202-pound defenceman has averaged 21 minutes per game this season and ranks third on the team in blocked shots with 74.

The Flames (22-24-3) are six points out of a playoff berth in the Pacific Division and nine back of a wild-card berth after defeating the Carolina Hurricanes 4-1 on Wednesday night.

Your reaction to Dennis Wideman's 20-game suspension? in Hockey on LockerDome
With files from The Canadian Press, Associated Press,