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League points finger at union in NHL concussion case

League points finger at union in NHL concussion case
Published On: Tue, May 02
Apr 26, 2015; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; National Hockey League commissioner Garry Bettman speaks the media prior to the start of game six between the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators in the first round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Canadian Tire Centre. The Canadiens won 1-0 and take the series 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

The National Hockey League says the NHL Players Association has repeatedly interfered with its attempts to introduce rules over the past 50 years to limit staged fighting, better safeguard players and bolster penalties for dangerous head hits.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly made the allegations in a sworn affidavit filed in U.S. federal court in Minneapolis late Thursday that relates to a lawsuit filed by former players suing the league over its handling of head injuries and concussions.

In the latest twist in the high-stakes concussion case, the NHL asked the court to not certify the case as a class-action suit. Dalys affidavit was filed in connection with that request.

If Judge Susan R. Nelson certifies the case, it would mean more than 5,000 former players, and the families of some deceased players, would automatically become plaintiffs in the case, drastically driving up the potential liability for the league.

If the court rejects the class-action motion, individual players would have to hire their own lawyers and pursue claims. The court could decide on certification as early as this summer.

The NHLPA declined to comment on the filing.

Daly testified in the April 26 affidavit that the NHL does not act alone in formulating and introducing rules about discipline for on-ice conduct, player health, equipment or general safety.

The NHL neither possesses nor exercises unilateral power over [player safety] in the manner Plaintiffs suggest, Daly wrote. Since 1967 (when the NHL first recognized the NHLPA as the exclusive collective bargaining representative of NHL players), the League has been obligated by the National Labor Relations Act to negotiate in good faith with the NHLPA over terms and conditions of employment

The deputy commissioner added, A history of the playing rules, supplemental discipline, equipment standards, playing environment characteristics and/or the leagues approach to player safety that fails to consider and account for the NHLPAs role with respect to these matters is inherently incomplete and profoundly misleading.

Daly testified that after NHL general managers approved a rule conceptually to ban head-only contact with a vulnerable player in June, 2007, it was the NHLPA who resisted and objected to a rule change

During the June meeting, the competition committee talked about the Ontario Hockey League's approach to hits to the head, noting the OHL had introduced a new rule that purported to penalize all head contact.

NHLPA associate counsel and former NHL player Stu Grimson and then-NHL player Brendan Shanahan told the meeting the OHL rule would be a dangerous path to take according to Dalys affidavit. [DALY PAGES 18, 19]

Read the complete news article here...


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