NHL sued by former players citing neglect over head injuries.


Nov 25, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Bruins goalie

Tuukka Rask

(40) makes a save against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the first period at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Today the NHL was hit from a surprise shot from the other side of the rink. Today, ten former NHL players filed a class action lawsuit against the National Hockey League. The former players accuse the league of not doing enough to prevent concussions and head injuries during their tenure.  They feel the NHL made the game faster and more dangerous without looking to the safety of the players.

The game has gotten faster and more intense since the days of Bobby Orr. While safety equipment has attempted to be on a parity with the updated rules, there have been a slew of career ending concussions. For the Bruins, the most recent permanent loss to their roster was inflicted on Marc Savard a few seasons ago. The players named as plantiffs in the case (as provided by Pierre LeBrun of ESPN) are as follows: Gary Leeman (1982-97), Brad Aitken (1990-91), Darren Banks (1992-94), Curt Bennett (1970-80), Richard Dunn(1977-89), Warren Holmes(former Boston Bruin 1992-94), Bob Manno (1976-85), Blair Stewart (1973-80), Morris Titanic (1974-76) and Rick Vaive (1979-92).

Below is the statement made by the plantiffs in the upcoming litigation.

In a cross-country collaboration, the Laguna Hills, California based law firm of Namanny, Byrne, and Owens is filing a class action lawsuit in conjunction with Silverman, Thompson, Slutkin, and White of Baltimore, Maryland. The class action lawsuit, which is being leveled against the National Hockey League (“NHL”) on behalf of former players, alleges that the NHL has failed to effectively respond to the head injuries sustained by players. The lawsuit contends that the NHL has behaved negligently and fraudulently in regards to the player sustained head trauma over the past decades.

In 2004 the NHL introduced a series of updates to the rule-set to encourage a faster, more exciting, and ultimately more marketable product. As a result, the number of violent in-game collisions and occurrence of head trauma have increased. When coupled with the NHL’s refusal to protect players by banning full-body checking or penalizing on-ice fist fights, the league has created a dangerous atmosphere for players. The complaint alleges that the NHL either ignores or consistently lags behind other hockey leagues in adopting protections for players in accordance with current medical knowledge of concussions. Instead, the NHL continues to glorify and empower players known as “enforcers”- players with the singular intention of injuring the opposing team.

There are a number of current and former players who recognize the violent culture that the NHL has been fostering. Rick Vaive, one of the former players and plaintiff in the lawsuit states, “many of the former NHL players are suffering from debilitating head injuries from their time in the league. Hopefully this lawsuit will shine a light on the problem and the players can get the help they deserve.”

Mel Owens, of Namanny, Byrne and Owens, is a former professional athlete, having competed in the National Football League (“NFL”) for 10 years. Owens is currently a disability attorney and one of the attorneys fighting on behalf of the former NHL players. “As a former professional athlete I can relate to the extreme physical duress that these players undergo. The least these NHL players deserve is a league willing to protect them and allow them to live without head trauma induced debilitations once their playing days are over.”

The lawsuit seeks to correct the violent course the NHL has embarked upon, while seeking compensation for players affected by years of negligent decision making.

The NHL unfortunately is staring down the barrel of a bad sports precedent. The National Football League agreed to pay $765 million to former players in a settlement after over forty five hundred former NFL athletes sued the league. The settlement agreed upon in August initially argued that the NFL was negligent in the needs of player safety.

Bill Daly, the number two man in the NHL issued the following response later in the day.

“We are aware of the class action lawsuit filed today in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on behalf of a group of former NHL Players.  While the subject matter is very serious, we are completely satisfied with the responsible manner in which the League and the Players’ Association have managed Player safety over time, including with respect to head injuries and concussions.  We intend to defend the case vigorously and have no further comment at this time.”