Burke fumes over NHL's handling of Wideman suspension


It took mere moments for Brian Burke to sound off about the NHL's "incomprehensible" handling of Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman's suspension appeal.

The Flames' president of hockey operations, speaking on Sportsnet shortly after Gary Bettman ruled to uphold the 20-game ban, did not mince words over what he perceived as the commissioner dragging his feet through the review process, only to result in no reduction.

"To take a week to rubber-stamp a decision that was made by the hockey operations department of the National Hockey League - as games tick off for my player, that affect my team's ability to win, that affect play-off races, that affect competitive balance - is incomprehensible to me," Burke said.

"We disagree vehemently with the the decision that was reached here. We were astonished by it, we don't understand it, we disagree with it completely."

Wideman was originally suspended for cross-checking linesman Don Henderson during a January 27 game against the Nashville Predators.

The NHL handed down the 20-game punishment on February 3, and Wideman's appeal was heard a week later during a six-hour meeting with Bettman.

Bettman said in his decision that he was troubled by Wideman's "total failure to accept any responsibility for his actions", citing a text message to a team-mate the league obtained during its investigation, which read: "The only problem and the only reason I'm here is cause the stupid refs and stupid media."

The Flames have played eight games since Wideman's suspension was announced, and they are quickly falling out of play-off contention.

"We're not questioning the integrity of the process," Burke said. "The appeal has gone to the commissioner. If all he's going to do is rubber-stamp it, we accept that. But then do it quickly, so it can get to this third party."

Wideman's suspension still has a chance to be reduced.

He will be the first NHL player under the new collective bargaining agreement to appeal a suspension via third party when his case is presented to arbitrator James Oldham in the coming days.