Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Former Players File Suit Against NHL

Last week, a group of ten former NHL players filed a class-action lawsuit against the National Hockey League.  Their main claim is that the league knew of the long-term risks involved with repeated blows to the head but chose not to publicly disclose this information to players.  At least two of the plaintiffs in this case have suffered brain damage.  Laywers Steve Silverman and Mel Owens have revealed that 200 more players plan to join the suit.

This comes on the heels of the $765 million dollar lawsuit recently settled by the NFL.  

While injuries have always been a part of the game, I have become concerned with the severity of head injuries since the rule changes made to the NHL in 2005.  In a desire to make the game more high-speed and offensive-minded, the NHL instituted rules, such as the two-line pass (previously banned) and reduction of the size of the neutral zone.  While the trapezoid rule seems innocuous, it means that the goaltender has to stay in net when the puck reaches the top of the offensive zone, forcing other players to play the puck -- especially along the boards -- and risk injury.  Incidentally, these changes haven't resulted in the high goal-scoring the league desired.   Last year, teams averaged 5.31 goals per game, the lowest since 2003-2004.  While I have no qualms with the league reducing the size of goaltender pads, it's also part of an endless drive to increase goal output.  I'm not anti-offense but I believe these changes should be better evaluated.  It's up to the NHL to prove that it has been taking the right precautions to protect players from undue risk.

Written by Toni

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