NHL commissioner Gary Bettman upheld Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman's 20-game suspension for cross-checking a linesman. 

The NHL announced the appeal decision Wednesday, and the NHL Players' Association said later it would further appeal to neutral arbitrator James Oldham. 

Wideman met with Bettman at a hearing in New York last week after the player appealed the suspension handed down Feb. 3 by NHL senior executive vice president of hockey operations Colin Campbell. 

Wideman knocked down linesman Don Henderson during the second period of the Flames' game against Nashville on Jan. 27. Wideman was checked hard into the boards by Predators winger Miikka Salomaki. Wideman banged his stick on the ice, then knocked down Henderson in front of the Nashville bench. Wideman said he was in pain and was just trying to get off the ice, adding that he couldn't avoid Henderson.

"I do not see a basis for a lesser penalty, particularly given the severity of the conduct involved," Bettman wrote. "On the other hand, I have the authority to impose a more substantial suspension, and 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.'

"Nevertheless, in light of Mr. Wideman's prior exemplary disciplinary record, I decline to increase the suspension imposed by Mr. Campbell."

"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 of Salomaki's hit after the game.

Wideman's teammate Joe Colborne was asked after Calgary's 5-3 loss to Minnesota Wednesday night about the text message and said that it surprised him to learn that it played a factor in Bettman's decision.

"It's an eye-opener for sure," said Colborne. "Talking with him, text messages, and it's been proven time and time again, can be taken out of context. One text message in an overall conversation can be taken out of context.

"It's a learning experience for all of us players and it's something that we're going to have be cognizant of in the future. Guess you can't be texting your teammates too much anymore."

Flames winger David Jones added the text message didn't need to be made public.

"If they have full ability to go after all that stuff, it's a little unfortunate but I think it's a little unfair to throw that out for everyone," said Jones. "I didn't think it needed to be put in the press release. It's a little unfair to him. He's very disappointed, obviously, with the way things have gone. I think he's an honest player and let's just leave it at that."

The NHLPA contended that Wideman was not responsible for his actions as he had suffered a concussion from a hit along the boards seconds before the incident. 

Wideman's teammate Joe Colborne was asked after Calgary's 5-3 loss to Minnesota Wednesday night about the text message and said that it surprised him to learn that it played a factor in Bettman's decision.

"It's an eye-opener for sure," said Colborne. "Talking with him, text messages, and it's been proven time and time again, can be taken out of context. One text message in an overall conversation can be taken out of context.

"It's a learning experience for all of us players and it's something that we're going to have be cognizant of in the future. Guess you can't be texting your teammates too much anymore."

Flames winger David Jones added that the text message didn't need to be made public.

"If they have full ability to go after all that stuff, it's a little unfortunate but I think it's a little unfair to throw that out for everyone," said Jones. "I didn't think it needed to be put in the press release. It's a little unfair to him. He's very disappointed, obviously, with the way things have gone. I think he's an honest player and let's just leave it at that."

Wideman has two goals and 17 assists and is minus-9 in 48 games this season. The 32-year-old, who is in his fourth season with Calgary, has only 30 penalty minutes in 2015-16. 

"We are extremely disappointed but not surprised that Gary Bettman upheld the decision of his staff to suspend Dennis Wideman for 20 games," the NHLPA said in a statement. "This decision completely ignores the effects of the concussion that Dennis sustained when he was driven into the boards eight seconds before colliding with the linesman. We will appeal to the neutral discipline arbitrator in order to have this decision overturned." 

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

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With files from CBC Sports