NEW YORK (AP) — The National Hockey League might be suffering buyer's remorse after agreeing players can appeal a commissioner's decision to an outside arbitrator.
The league asked a Manhattan federal court judge Wednesday to reject the reduction of Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman's suspension for knocking down a linesman.
An independent arbitrator reduced Wideman's suspension from 20 games to 10 after ruling that Wideman did not intend to injure linesman Don Henderson in Jan. 27 game against the Nashville Predators. The suspension has already been served.
The league noted that linesman Don Henderson suffered a concussion and other injuries and still has not been able to return to the ice.
In its papers, the NHL said the limited right to appeal a Feb. 17 decision by Commissioner Gary Bettman to a neutral discipline arbitrator is a newly created right under the players' association contract. The league said the arbitrator exceeded his authority because he was only supposed to decide whether the commissioner's decision to impose a 20-game suspension was supported by substantial evidence.
"Time and again, rather than adhering to the limits of his authority," the court papers said the arbitrator "substituted his 'own version' of events instead of analyzing whether there was 'substantial evidence' supporting the commissioner's decision to affirm Mr. Wideman's suspension."
It said the arbitrator's ruling was "rife with examples of him applying his own brand of industrial justice," a reference to a legal term that refers to when an arbitrator oversteps authority.
The league said this is the first time it has appealed a decision to the federal court under the new arrangement.
Flames officials declined comment because the case is a legal matter.