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Volume 25 No. 151

Leagues and Governing Bodies

Carcillo (r) has been urging players to not accept the NHL's concussion settlement
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The NHL's tentative $18.9M concussion settlement is "significantly less than the billion-dollar agreement reached between the NFL and its former players on the same issue of head injuries," according to Stephen Whyno of the AP. Each of the more than 300 former NHL players who opt in "would receive $22,000 and could be eligible for up to $75,000 in medical treatment." Former player Reed Larson said the $22,000 figure is "small," but the players involved in the case were "always looking for (medical) coverage to begin with." Larson: "The bottom line is this is monitoring, testing and hopefully helping for players that will either have (CTE) now or could get it in the future." Whyno noted there were 146 players who "added their names to the lawsuit as plaintiffs" between November '13 and August '18, and 172 more "joined as claimants." Former player Daniel Carcillo "urged players not to accept the settlement." In a series of tweets, Carcillo indicated that players would be "forced to see the same NHL and NHLPA doctors to determine if they'd be eligible for treatment." Whyno noted the settlement comes four months after a "federal judge denied class-action status for the retired players, a significant victory" for the NHL in the lawsuit. NHLPA Exec Dir Don Fehr said, "It's not surprising after the NHL prevailed on the class-action motion that there would have been movements in this direction. I'm glad for the parties that it's all over. Hopefully people can go on with their lives and now we can perhaps deal with these issues with the NHL without having to worry about the effect on the litigation" (AP, 11/12).

LACK OF STAR POWER: USA TODAY's A.J. Perez wrote the NHL settlement "isn't close to what former NFL players secured -- and there was never a chance it would be." Attorney Charles Zimmerman, who represented the NHL players, said hockey is a "totally different culture" than football. Zimmerman: "When hockey players leave the sport, they still love the game. NFL players leave football and, for many of them, they hate the game. Nobody wanted to get involved in the lawsuit. They want to stay connected to hockey." Perez wrote unlike the NFL's settlement, which was "dotted with Hall of Famers," the list of NHL players involved in the lawsuit "lacked such star power with many of the names only recognizable to the most hardcore fans." Zimmerman said of the lack of former stars involved in the litigation, "You don't think we tried?" Perez wrote the case "took a hit" when it was denied class-action status in July. However, Zimmerman said that despite the setback, it was a "good settlement" (USATODAY.com, 11/12).

BIG FOR BETTMAN: THE HOCKEY NEWS' Ken Campbell wrote the NHL "wins again" with the settlement. The $18.9M it will pay is a "pittance." However, the "more enormous windfall" for the league and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman "comes in the form of what it doesn't have to surrender in this deal." No admission of "one iota of liability, no admission that repetitive brain trauma is associated in any way" with CTE, and "no acknowledgement of doing anything untoward." Of all the ways Bettman has "led the charge to save his bosses, this one might be his most triumphant." Bettman for years "repeatedly refused to give up one inch of turf in this issue, always maintaining the lawsuit was without merit and never, ever acknowledging any connection between concussions and CTE." That strategy has now "paid off for him and the NHL in enormous ways" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 11/12). In N.Y., Ken Belson writes under the header, "In NHL Concussion Settlement, Owners Win The Fight." Belson writes few people on the "plaintiff side will be happy with a deal that provides little long-term security for retired players who are suffering." Zimmerman said, "The NHL's philosophy was scorched earth and deny every issue. They denied the link between neurocognative problems and the game of hockey, and felt that the players were not injured and wouldn't participate in large numbers. They were right on that" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/13).

WHO WINS HERE? In Toronto, Dave Feschuk writes the NHL's penance for its "alleged sins so far amounts to a relative pittance," and that "comes with strings attached." The "real winners are the lawyers," as of the $18.9M the NHL has agreed to pay, more than a third of it -- about $7M -- is "earmarked for legal fees and costs" (TORONTO STAR, 11/13).

Last month's Global Series in Helsinki furthered the NHL's confidence in Europe
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The NHL and the NHLPA both agree that there "will be European teams in the NHL one day," and the "only question is when," according to David Shoalts of the GLOBE & MAIL. NHLPA Exec Dir Don Fehr said, "It would be a real positive statement to create the first really trans-ocean league. I think it would be an extraordinary achievement for everybody. Whether it will happen in my tenure remains to be seen, but hopefully sooner or later." NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly has been saying lately that "expansion to Europe is inevitable." He said that the only way it can work is if an "entire division of teams, probably a minimum of four, is added." Daly added that he "does not think European expansion will happen 'in the short- to medium-term but with continued growth in the sport, franchises in Europe at some point are probably inevitable.'" Fehr said, "The sooner the better, provided it can be done right. You don’t want to rush it ... you don’t want to do it before the capital is committed, the schedule is worked out, all the rest of it." Shoalts notes travel is the "most obvious problem, which is why the NHL is looking at adding an entire division of teams" (GLOBE & MAIL, 11/13).

RESOLVING THE ISSUES: YAHOO SPORTS' Steven Psihogios notes issues that the NHL would be dealing with in addition to travel are "appropriate ticket pricing, NHL-capacity venues, and negotiating with hockey teams operating in destination markets." However, the league "doesn’t view any of these concerns to be deal breakers." Daly said that global participation is "peaking and that this move would be met by a lot of interest" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/13). SPORTSNET.ca's Sonny Sachdeva noted another issue with European expansion is the "drastic alteration to the schedule that would come with basing one or more teams in Europe." However, Fehr believes that a "workable arrangement is possible." He said, "I actually, several years ago ... worked out a schedule with 30 teams, where you could have five based in Europe. And my memory is each European team would come to North America twice. Each North American team would go to Europe once" (SPORTSNET.ca, 11/12).

CHECK THE BOXES FIRST: In Toronto, Kevin McGran notes the NHL is "gunning for a World Cup" in the fall of '20. However, the league said that it "needs to have a deal for it in place" with the NHLPA by the "end of January." The current CBA expires in '22, but both sides "have a right to open it" in '20. Each side has to tell the other its intentions by next September, but the league said that it "needs word sooner than that for World Cup purposes." The NHL is "reluctant to go ahead with any planning or marketing of another World Cup unless it has assurances from the NHLPA the event won’t be affected by labour issues." The two sides have been talking, with Fehr suggesting that a "commitment to the World Cup is 'severable' from CBA talks at large" (TORONTO STAR, 11/13).