By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman may not have a dirty reputation, but that alone can’t save him from punishment for cross-checking a linesman from behind. A precedent had to be set for such an incident, and thus Wideman has been suspended for the 20-game minimum under the NHL’s Rule 40 (Physical Abuse of Officials).

READ MORE: At-Home Rapid Antigen COVID-19 Testing Gaining Popularity Ahead Of Holidays

However, the one detail that made the whole situation more complicated than your standard ref-whippin’ was that Wideman was most likely concussed at the time of the hit – you can see in the NHL’s video explaining the incident and Wideman’s punishment that he took a hard hit to the boards just before it happened. He makes clear hard helmet contact with the boards.

Now, it’s known that Wideman was diagnosed with a concussion after the game. This all-but-confirms that Wideman was not in his right mind when he cross-checked linesman Don Henderson from behind.

Still, that can’t excuse a player from abusing an official, which the video calls “one of the most serious offenses an NHL player can commit,” and even though Wideman has “had an exemplary NHL career” and had never been fined or suspended, and that this was “an isolated, out-of-character lapse in judgment,” the league had no choice but to drop the hammer on him. It was a “Sorry man, I know you’re a nice guy but you can’t do that.” Otherwise, players could just bulldoze a ref then use the “I was dazed” excuse.

The incident now brings the NHL’s revamped concussion protocol into question. Similar to the NFL’s new regulations, every team has a “spotter” who notifies them of players who need to be taken out back for evaluation. Wideman reportedly refused to go, which is a bad look now that it is known that he was concussed at the time.

READ MORE: 'This Is What Really Matters': Patriots TE Jonnu Smith Spreads Joy At Boys And Girls Club In Dorchester

Wideman’s behavior definitely put the team, and the league, in a precarious position. Can’t really expect a concussion spotter or two team assistants to forcibly drag him off the Flames bench, but at the same time, they need to enforce something as important as concussion protocol.

Hockey Night in Canada’s Elliotte Friedman tweeted an interesting theory, that the league punished Wideman as “a message for violating [concussion] protocol” in addition to striking an official. Considering the emphasis the league put on the refusal of medical attention while still holding Wideman accountable, that certainly appears to be its line of thinking. And frankly, players should be punished if they refuse to accept concussion testing. The team should also be held accountable if it did nothing to order Wideman off the bench for testing.

The league did what it had to do to set a precedent for Wideman’s actions. But the way it all went down only opens up new questions of how to properly conduct and enforce the concussion protocol, which has become as important a health issue as any in sports. Wideman’s refusal to participate proves that, ultimately, the player should be held responsible for a missed diagnosis, no matter how far off the reservation their mind had wandered.

That’s why Wideman’s suspension will stand.

MORE NEWS: Families Being Forced Out Of Malden Apartments By Charter School That Purchased Building

Matt Dolloff is a writer for His opinions do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at