Hi Kerry, as a die-hard Flames fan since they moved to Calgary, I know I don't look at things entirely objectively when the Flames are involved. That being said, when you look at the number of penalties pre and post-Wideman incident, it certainly looks like the refs have adjusted how they approach the Flames, and are blowing their whistles harder and more often at the Flames.
Some of the increase in penalties make sense with the additions of players like Tkachuk and Brower, but those players don't explain the difference in power play vs penalties. And it should be noted, Tkachuk draws more penalties than he takes, so he is not the explanation for this remarkable change in penalties for and against.
Pre-Wideman Incident (2015-16): (47 Games) PP Opps = 151 MP Taken = 123 = Difference of +28 After Wideman Incident (2015-16 - Without Tkachuk or Brouwer in line up): (35 Games) PP Opps = 119 MP Taken = 135 = Difference of -16 After Wideman Incident (2016-17 - With New Additions): (44 Games) PP Opps = 145 MP Taken = 190 = Difference of -45
As one can see, The Flames went from a significantly positive penalty differential team pre-Wideman incident, to a significantly negative penalty differential team after the Wideman incident literally almost over night with the exact same roster. It's a 44 minor penalty swing. That's a pretty significant if you ask me. Refs are only human, its not unreasonable to think they would want to 'teach the Flames a lesson' for appealing the Wideman suspension. What do you think? Thank you...Rod Ross
This is really a difficult question to tackle but I have never been one to avoid the tough call. Therefore, I will attempt to answer your question with the same candor that I provide in all my responses - recognizing in large part, that all of us can only speculate on the "Wideman effect".
While NHL Officials are the very best in the business and do their utmost to ply their trade in a highly professional and unbiased manner, we must also recognize that they are - after all - human! Not only are mistakes made on occasion but each official brings our own strengths and weaknesses to the table. No different than players, some officials are more adept at developing and maintaining interpersonal relationships despite the often aggressive environment they must navigate throughout a game and a career.
Some people are just plain easier to get along with - while others grind you the wrong way at every turn. The NHL rule book provides the Officials with a wide latitude in judgement to discern between when they should impose a penalty or allow the game to continue through a "good" non-call. Many times the margin between these two actions is so close it could go either way.
A player might receive a "break" on a play and escape with a warning. The plain fact is that players who are a constant thorn in the side of the Official(s) are much less likely to get a break when one might be extended. The Officials group is also a "team" and no differently than players that support their teammates.
Regardless of any positive working relationship that Dennis Wideman might have thought he enjoyed with the guys in black and white stripes prior to his devastating check from behind to linesman Don Henderson, Wideman is not a popular figure with the majority of the Officials. Following the hit, Henderson has had surgery to place a synthetic disc in his neck but is still experiencing numbness and could very likely require additional surgery.
I highly doubt that the Officials would purposely stick it to the Flames organization to get back at Dennis Wideman - they are far too professional for that. If however, in the exercise of their judgment a "break" was to be extended, it just might not go in favor of Wideman (& company).
Jim Shoenfeld, as the coach of the NJ Devils was a major player in the Don Koharski donut episode following game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final May 6, 1988. Schoenfeld would likely attest to the fact that the benefit of the doubt was seldom, if ever, extended to the Devils the following season.
I had worked game 2 of that series, a very spirited affair in Boston, won by the Devils to even the series at a game apiece. I moved on to Detroit and was waiting to work the next game in the Western Conference final as I watched the events of game 4 in the Eastern Conference unfold from the television in my hotel room. Our colleagues that refused to take the ice were effectively fired by Bill Wirtz, NHL Chairman of the Board. Negotiations took place between the League and the NHLPA and my crew also refused to take the ice in Detroit until our colleagues were reinstated. I received a call at 5:30 PM on the day of the game that a successful resolution had been reached and we were cleared to work the game.
The following season I was working a Devils game in the Meadowlands. The Devils committed two infractions early in the game which I deemed to be penalties. NJ was scored upon while two men short and were entitled to relief of the first penalty assessed.
As I prepared to drop the puck at center ice Coach Shoenfeld, clapped his hands in a mocking gesture of my penalty calls. I calmly and without facial expression signaled for the Coach to place another player in the penalty box as I imposed a bench minor. The Devils remained two men short as a result. While the penalty could certainly be supported by video evidence of the coach's actions there was no break extended to Shoenfeld (and ultimately his team) in this situation.
After assessing the bench minor penalty to the Devils I recall my colleague, linesman Ron "The Bear" Asseslstine skating up to me at center ice and saying, "Kerry, I could kiss you right on the lips!" [for calling the bench minor]
The Bear's comment, while purely in jest, was a further indication of the fractured relationship and animosity that many of the Officials held following the Koharski Donut incident. That following season the NJ Devils missed the playoffs and Jim Shoenfeld eventually moved on to coach the Washington Capitals, Phoenix Coyotes and NY Rangers. Time heals all wounds and the unfortunate incident in the Meadowlands did not follow the coach in his other assignments.
I suspect that Dennis Wideman is near the end of his NHL career and the memory of this incident will move on with him. Only time will tell if linesman Don Henderson is as fortunate.