NHL sues players union to restore Calgary defenseman's 20-game ban

Wed Jun 8, 2016 10:34pm EDT
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By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The National Hockey League on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against its players union, seeking to restore a 20-game suspension against Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman that a "neutral" arbitrator later cut in half.

In a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, the NHL said arbitrator James Oldham "applied his own brand of industrial justice" by ignoring the findings of Commissioner Gary Bettman, who upheld the original suspension, and substituting a shorter 10-game ban.

In a statement, the NHL Players' Association said its collective bargaining agreement(CBA) with the league provides that the arbitrator's decision be deemed final. It also said it was confident that the lawsuit was "completely without merit."

Oldham did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Wideman was suspended for cross-checking NHL linesman Don Henderson from behind with his stick during a Jan. 27, 2016 game with the Nashville Predators.

According to the league, the blow caused Henderson to fall face first onto the ice, leaving him with a concussion and unable to resume work as a linesman.

The players' union appealed the 20-game ban to Oldham, a Georgetown University law professor, as permitted under its collective bargaining agreement.

But the NHL said Oldham did not act as a "neutral discipline arbitrator" (NDA) in halving Wideman's ban, given the lack of "substantial evidence" that Bettman's decision was wrong.   Continued...

Mar 11, 2016; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman (6) warms up against the Arizona Coyotes at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports