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No end in sight

author: konstantin kharitonov | sports editor

Promise of Concussion Lawsuit settlement unlikely to happen

Recently, a tweet came across my timeline that got me excited, which is rare for hockey Twitter. It was a tweet about the ongoing NHL concussion lawsuit. 

For those wondering what the lawsuit is all about, a group of former NHLers, mostly former enforcers from the 1990s, filed concurrent lawsuits against the NHL saying that the league did not properly address concussions throughout their careers, drastically underestimated the effects of concussions and actively neglected the appropriate and proper treatment for concussions and post concussion syndrome. In response, the NHL has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, stating that the players have been properly accessed with the dangers of the sport and that there is no link between concussions and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE for short. CTE is a neurodegenerative disease found in brains that have substantial brain trauma, causing behavioral problems, problems with thinking and memory, and has a high chance of leading to dementia.  

So, you can see why any news about the topic can be very depressing, but also uplifting if it is regarding the players receiving the proper compensation. The tweet that got me all jumpy was one from Jonathan Davis, the NHL Network’s LA correspondent on Sept. 25.  

In the tweet he said, “Hearing that a resolution to the concussion lawsuit filed by 140 NHL players will be next Wednesday with a press conference in New York.” 

A resolution doesn’t sound like too much, but all the sudden there might be an end in sight where the NHL acknowledges their part in the concussion issues of former NHL players. It is a long time coming, but to hear it happening at all is a relief. Now all we must do is wait.  

And wait we did, and yet there is no official announcement from the league of such an event, nor is there any other news source reporting about any press conference or press release happening. While Davis did get back to me saying that there will be some news coming on October 2, its looking very unlikely that the promised resolution will happen anytime soon. 

That is infuriating. Its been almost 5 years since the initial lawsuit has started, and yet nothing has yet to materialize from it, other than some half-assed attempts from the NHL at implementing concussion spotters and some truly hilarious emails. There have been no financial reprimands and the NHL still refuses to even acknowledge the link between concussions caused in the NHL and CTE. 

What is also infuriating is the court’s decision to deny the players’ request for class-action status to the lawsuit, meaning that all the players who filed a lawsuit must fight it by themselves, instead of together in a class-action suit. This causes the players to have to file evidence and actions as a separate entity, delaying the process even further.  

This is a billion-dollar business and we still have coaches that will risk the lives of their players just so that they can win an extra couple of games. It is worth risking the life of the players? You have the commissioner saying there is “no merit whatsoever” with the lawsuit, when there are players out here like Dan Carcillo saying they would trade all their success away just to feel normal again.  

In a video for the Players Tribune, Dan Carcillo stated, “The quality of life that repetitive traumatic brain injuries rob from you is… I would give back all my money and you can take my name off the Stanley Cup twice over. I can’t live like that anymore. I just can’t.” 

A Stanley Cup champion would give up all the glory and money he was able to achieve in his life just so that he wouldn’t have to deal with this type of pain anymore than come from having multiple concussions. Its truly heartbreaking and disheartening. 

Honestly, why is it taking so long? There is already precedent for what needs to be done. The NFL already settled with their players by paying out more than $1 billon to players. And yet we still have families like the Montador family who must wait until 2019 until they can even get into a court room. In a tweet from Rick Westhead, Steve Montador suffered at least 11 documented concussions, with at least 4 happening in 12 weeks in 2012, THIS DECADE, yet still was medically cleared to play. This is a man who committed suicide due to the brain trauma he suffered over his career and the family still must wait until 2019 to begin the process of getting any sort of justice.  

At some point, we will get some actual news resolving this lawsuit and maybe Davis isn’t talking out of his ass and there will be actual news. Unfortunately for us, and more importantly for the players, there isn’t likely a resolution coming in the following days.

About Konstantin Kharitonov

I write about sports, and I yell at them.

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