NHL Lawsuit | KSTP.com

In the State of Hockey, a landmark federal lawsuit is being fought in a St. Paul courtroom that could change what type of play you see on the NHL ice.

In the lawsuit, more than 150 former NHL players, including 17 Minnesotans, allege the league promoted violence and fighting to pursue profits while downplaying the health risks associated with concussions.

"I didn't like it being my role though...that's not my role. I'm a goddamn hockey player."

Dan LaCouture, Former NHL player on fighting

"...there is a real concern about the possibility of a severe injury or death as a result of a player striking his head on the ice or boards during a fight."

PowerPoint Presentation by Unnamed NHL Executive

KSTP's Investigative Team interviewed former players, reviewed hundreds of NHL documents, internal correspondence and presentations that reveals the league's view on fighting and the impact it has on the long-term health of players.

The NHL Commissioner said the suit, which accuses the league of failing to warn players about the health risks of concussions, has no merit.

Key Players

Jack Carlson - Former Minnesota North Stars player
Jack Carlson played 236 games in the NHL over six seasons in the 1970s and 1980s - the league's golden era of fighting. Carlson grew up on Minnesota's Iron Range and played for the North Stars from 1978 to 1982, and again from 1986 to 1987. He was a designated "enforcer" and says fighting "was my job...it was what I was paid to do." He is part of the federal lawsuit that accuses the NHL of promoting fighting and violence while downplaying the health risks of concussions.

WATCH an extended interview with Carlson here.

Dan LaCouture - Former NHL winger
Dan LaCouture says he was consistently marketed and promoted by NHL teams as a fighter during an 11 year career in which he suffered 20 concussions. LaCouture's career abruptly ended in 2004 after he hit his head on the ice during a fight. Internal NHL emails uncovered as part of the federal lawsuit LaCouture joined show league officials fear a player will die after hitting his head on the ice during a fight.

WATCH an extended interview with LaCouture here.

Dr. Michael Stuart - Co-director, Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center
Dr. Stuart will host the clinic's third Ice Hockey Summit: Action on Concussion, in September, 2017. In 2013, the summit concluded that fighting should be eliminated from hockey at all levels. Dr. Stuart is also the chief medical officer for USA Hockey and provides second medical opinions to NHL players. His sons, Mike, Mark and Colin, have all played in the NHL.

Gary Bettman- NHL Commissioner
Gary Bettman has consistently defended the role of fighting in professional hockey since taking over as league commissioner in 1993. He argues fighting protects skill players, limits more violent play and results in very few concussions. In 2009, Bettman cautioned against "knee jerk reactions" following the death of a Canadian hockey league player that caused concern and fear in NHL league offices about the role of fighting.

Bill Daly- NHL Deputy Commissioner and General Counsel
Bill Daly, the NHL's top attorney, acknowledged a link between concussions and long term health effects in a 2013 email exchange with Commissioner Gary Bettman. "Fighting raises the incidence of head injuries/concussions, which raises the incidence of depression onset, which raises the incidence of personal tragedies," Daly said.

Steve Walkom - NHL Vice President of Officiating
The man in charge of enforcing the rules and regulating play admitted in a 2009 email that the NHL "sells violence." Steve Walkom sent the message after reading a news article about fighting "goons." In other emails, Walkom stated he loved fighting much to the dismay of "the tree huggin", never played sport, leftist doctors..."

Jeff Parker - Former NHL Player
Jeff Parker's NHL career ended after 141 games with the Buffalo Sabres and Hartford Whalers. Parker, who grew up in White Bear Lake, says he joined the lawsuit because the league downplayed the risks of concussions while players were pressured to return to the lineup.

WATCH an extended interview with Parker here.

Reed Larson - Former NHL Player
Reed Larson says he was told "nothing" about the risks associated with concussions during the 17 seasons he played in the NHL. The former Minnesota Gopher and North Star says he joined the lawsuit because players need to be medically monitored for long-term health effects like CTE. "People want to point us out at as troublemakers or looking for a pot of gold," Larson said. "This is a serious issue and it's rampant."

WATCH an extended interview with Larson here.

Chris Nowinski - Co-Founder CTE Center, Boston University
Chris Nowinski co-founded the CTE Center at Boston University and has helped collect more than 400 brains of former athletes, including five deceased NHL players. The research being conducted at BU led to the NFL's billion dollar settlement with former players and the league's admission last year that football related head trauma is linked to CTE. Nowinski says it is clear the issue is not isolated to football. "What's very clear is that hockey players are at risk for CTE," Nowinski said.

WATCH an extended interview with Nowinski here.

Mike Peluso - Former NHL Player, "Enforcer"
Mike Peluso played nearly 10 seasons in the National Hockey League and made up part of the New Jersey Devils' infamous "Crash Line" of enforcers in the early 1990s. In February 1994, he suffered his first grand mal seizure, later linked to a concussion Peluso had suffered during a fight with Tony Twist in December 1993. A neurologist wrote in a medical report that Peluso could continue to play hockey without excessive risk for the development of further seizures "unless he were to sustain further head injuries." In a federal lawsuit, Peluso argues the report was "intentionally concealed" by the team in order that he continue as a team enforcer. Peluso went on to fight 79 more times for the Devils after that report was written.

WATCH an extended interview with Peluso here.

Dr. Marvin Ruderman - Neurologist
In February, 1994, the New Jersey Devils sent Mike Peluso to see Dr. Marvin Ruderman, a neurologist who treated other Devils players. In the medical report, Dr. Ruderman wrote that Peluso understood there was a risk for further seizures but also warned team officials that playing hockey did not pose an excessive risk for the development of further seizures "unless (Peluso) were to sustain further head injuries." The medical report was sent to the team doctors and the general manager. It was not sent to Peluso. Peluso, the team's enforcer, went on to fight 79 more times for the Devils. (Photo: RWJ Barnabas Health)

Lou Lamoriello - Former GM of the New Jersey Devils
Lou Lamoriello was the general manager of the New Jersey Devils at the time the team sent Mike Peluso to a neurologist after he suffered a seizure. Lamoriello was sent the medical report that stated Peluso was at risk for the development of further seizures if he sustained "further head injuries" while playing hockey. In the lawsuit, Peluso said the team concealed the medical report and "intentionally misrepresented his condition...and instructed him to continue as the team's enforcer." Peluso went on to fight 79 more times for the Devils. Lamoriello, now general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, declined to comment.
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