Calgary Flames defenceman Dennis Wideman sure looked like he meant to level an unsuspecting lineman, nailing him in the back from behind and sending him crashing to the ice in front of the bench (see video below). Wideman says he was just trying to get off the ice — no denying that — and removing what was in his way was a natural reaction. Wideman also looked like he might have been a little dazed from the shot he’d taken moments earlier: when the brain takes a clobbering it can see enemies that aren’t really there, like an impartial linesman.
What the NHL has to figure out is whether Wideman broke rule 40.2 of the 215-page long NHL handbook, which holds (in part) that a player in violation is one 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.” The suspension in that case would be 20 or more games. But the key word in the phrasing is “deliberately.” It really depends on whether the NHL believes Wideman had his wits about him when he delivered the hit. He looks on the video, before and after the hit, like he doesn’t quite know what just happened. Understandable, given the previous minute’s action. Or was Wideman just pissed, and lashing out?