NHL Roundup: John Scott And Dennis Wideman Controversies

Dec 17, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Coyotes left wing John Scott (28) and Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Jared Boll (40) fight during the second period at Gila River Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 17, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Coyotes left wing John Scott (28) and Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Jared Boll (40) fight during the second period at Gila River Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports /
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Jan 7, 2016; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman (6) skates with the puck against the Arizona Coyotes during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Arizona Coyotes won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports /

As much support as John Scott has garnered from various corners of the NHL universe, Calgary defenseman Dennis Wideman has earned just as much vitriol for cross-checking a linesman to the ice Wednesday against Nashville. It was an absolutely bizarre moment from a guy with no discipline history with the league. Here’s video of the incident:

So what has me bothered about this? Obviously, hitting a linesman in that way is not a good look for anyone, but that isn’t what irked me. More so, it was people rushing to social media to climb aboard their high horse and plaster Wideman as a goon and cheap-shot artist. Oh, and most of these people did this while showing clips of the hit Wideman laid on the linesman, and that hit alone.

You know what might be important to add in there, social media attention hogs? The shot to the upper body Wideman took just moments before he hit linesman Don Henderson. The hit on Wideman sends him hard into the boards, head- and shoulder-first. He spins like a top and immediately tries to get back into the play, but then stops skating and slowly bends over, holding his head in clear pain.

He then skates gingerly toward his bench, having to get past the linesman, who has his back turned and is standing in front of the Predators bench. It appears Wideman is looking up the entire time, but with the camera angle, it’s impossible to tell where his eyes are looking. Wideman appears to be ready to skate around Henderson when he violently checks him and just keeps skating to his bench.

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Could Wideman have been retaliating for a perceived missed penalty on the hit he had just taken? Maybe. Could he also have been somewhat literally out of his mind as a result of the hit, suffering from some of the initial effects of a concussion — “confusion or feeling as if in a fog,” “dizziness” and “appearing dazed” being three critical ones, according to the Mayo Clinic — and making a major mistake in the process? Also, maybe.

But, naturally, people freaked the hell out in spite of Wideman apologizing to Henderson both on the ice and through the media after the game and no penalty being called on the play. (And don’t try to argue a penalty couldn’t be called; physical abuse of officials is a no-tolerance item in the NHL.) Far and wide, individuals and outlets are saying Wideman should be given the Raffi Torres treatment and banned for as long as humanly possible.

Look, maybe Wideman suddenly went rogue and decided to hit an official. But how about we give a guy with no disciplinary history and fewer than 40 penalty minutes in seven of his 10-plus NHL seasons a little slack before we turn him into a monster bent on quenching his thirst for violence by checking unsuspecting officials.

I don’t know that I’ve ever seen fans and outlets react more absurdly to a clearly questionable on-ice situation than they have here. It’s insane to me how many people want to ignore the fact (and this is a fact; go watch the video again if you need it confirmed) Wideman took a high hit and smacked his head on the boards, then clearly bent over and held his head in pain while getting off the ice. And then he happened to come upon a guy wearing white and black — not crazy far off the white and gray Nashville was wearing that night — right in front of the opposing bench while, by all appearances, trying to regain his bearings.

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While Wideman doesn’t appear to have been diagnosed with a concussion at this time, don’t tell me you haven’t seen a guy take a massive hit up high and fall to the ice or slowly skate off — with fans likely thinking the guy is due for a trip to the dark room — only to come back later in the game. It happens a fair amount in the NHL. Henderson could have easily been in the wrong place at the wrong time, and he and the other officials seemed to think this was the case during the game, considering Wideman wasn’t penalized for his hit.

All I’m saying is, let’s not turn someone into a poster boy for the need to crack down on beating up officials (apparently this is a league epidemic because Milan Lucic accidentally hit a different official in a different game the same night?) in a situation that is not in any way black and white. Yes, Wideman was indefinitely suspended by the league Thursday, but what else would you expect? The NHL has to do something to acknowledge that it takes this situation seriously, in case Wideman did go rogue and, with a fully-clear mind, decided to pummel a linesman. Wideman will get a face-to-face meeting with the likes of league vice president Colin Campbell and, maybe, Gary Bettman, and you can bet they’ll talk about more than how hard the hit was.

Wideman may have to bear the brunt of a lengthy suspension no matter what he tells the higher-ups, but his rapid conviction across the NHL fandom is absurd and premature.

What do you think about the John Scott and Dennis Wideman controversies? Let us know in the comments section.