The NHL is in some hot water right now, after more than 100 ex-players came forward accusing the league of withholding information about the long-term dangers of head injuries and not doing as much as they could to help prevent concussions. According to Rick Westhead of TSN, the players are saying that “the league has underplayed the dangers of repeated head injuries, putting its own profits ahead of player safety”. He also states that the NHL is saying that players, “should have been able to put ‘two and two’ together about the consequences of repeated head trauma”. Now, a Minneapolis court has released 298 documents and emails between NHL executives. Most of which are from 2011 following the deaths of Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien, and Wade Belak just months apart. Boogaard overdosed on painkillers combined with alcohol and both Rypien and Belak reportedly committed suicide. All three of them were enforcers in the NHL.
Westhead broke the news about the emails being released on March 28 and describes interactions between NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly following the players suicides. The next day, The Globe and Mail made all the documents available to view and search, including the ones between Bettman and Daly, which you can find here.
This isn’t the first time a sports league has been sued by former players about concussions. In 2013, some 4,500 retired NFL players had come forward and sued the league. NFL.com stated that the players accused the league of, “Concealing the dangers of concussions and rushing injured players back onto the field”. Sounds a lot like what’s going on in the NHL right now. But, the NFL ended up settling the suit and payed $765 million among it’s 18,000 retired players. They agreed to, “compensate victims, pay for medical exams and underwrite research”. It seems that the NHL is set on fighting the allegations they are facing and don’t plan on settling at the moment.
Per the Chicago Tribune, “Spokesman Frank Brown said Tuesday the league’s stance has not changed from Bettman’s comments from Jan. 30 during an All-Star game weekend news conference.”. During that conference, Bettman didn’t seem too concerned about the possibility of the emails being available for public viewing, instead saying, “I think in terms of us doing our business on an ongoing basis and the fact that we have the league to run, I’d prefer these things not be public. They’ll be a distraction at best, but I don’t think they impact the rest of the case.” so while these emails may make some NHL officials uncomfortable, the league doesn’t seem too worried.
It remains to be seen whether or not more documents will be released after this, but we will keep you updated as the case continues.
Do you think the NHL should settle the case or keep it going in court? Sound off in the comments!