Flames' Dennis Wideman apologizes for hitting linesman

Speaking for the first time since he was suspended 20 games for hitting linesman Don Henderson, Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman apologized Thursday for his actions but said he is "pretty disappointed" with the punishment.

"Firstly, I want to apologize to Donnie Henderson," Wideman said to media after Flames practice. "I feel awful about what happened. Hopefully he's recovering and he's going to be back on the ice soon, but I feel really bad about the whole situation. The last seven days have been tough."

In the game against the Predators on Jan. 27, Wideman had just taken a hit from Nashville winger Miikka Salomaki and was skating toward the Flames bench when he leveled Henderson from behind, sending the official to the ice and against the boards. Wideman said the hit was unintentional. He was not penalized.

Wideman said after the game that he was distracted after the Salomaki hit and unintentionally collided with Henderson.

The NHL suspended Wideman indefinitely before the All-Star break. He met with league officials in Toronto on Tuesday and was given the 20-game ruling Wednesday.

"Never in my career have I ever disrespected or done anything like this to an official," Wideman said Thursday. "I think I've prided myself on having a great working relationship with the officials, and I hope to continue that when I get out there. But again, I just want to apologize to Donnie. I feel awful about what happened.

"As far as the suspension goes, I'm really disappointed with the decision and the length of the suspension. I did not have any intent at any time to hit the official or hurt him or anything like that. I would never do something like that, and I'm pretty disappointed with the decision."

The NHL Players' Association filed an appeal on his behalf to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, and the hearing will be held Wednesday in New York City. Wideman can appeal further to neutral arbitrator James Oldham if the suspension is still six or more games after Bettman rules.

If the suspension stands, Wideman, 32, will forfeit $564,516.20, money that will go to the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund.

On Thursday, Wideman did not take any questions from the assembled media. He thanked the NHLPA, Flames fans and the organization.

Wideman cited the Flames' honoring longtime linesman Mike Cvik, who officiated his last game on Jan. 5 in Calgary, as a sign of respect the organization has for officials.

"I think, in the past, our organization has done a great job of honoring linesmen and officials, just as recently as Mike Cvik. And our fans, too," Wideman said. "I think, when we sent [Cvik] off the ice after the game and they gave him a standing ovation, I think that's something that shows how we feel about the officials in this league, and that's something that I want to be a part of going forward."

Information from ESPN senior writer Pierre LeBrun contributed to this report.