In recently unsealed emails, top NHL officials discussed possible links between fights, concussions and the deaths of three former players who died either due to suicide or drug overdose.
According to TSN, in the 2011 email exchange, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, deputy commissioner Bill Daly, and then-senior vice president for player safety and hockey operations Brendan Shanahan debated eliminating fighting from the league.
“Do you remember what happened when we tried to eliminate the staged fights?” Bettman wrote in an email. “The ‘fighters’ objected and so did the pa [NHLPA]. Eliminating fighting would mean eliminating the jobs of the ‘fighters’, meaning that these guys would not have NHL careers.”
Daly responded: “Fighting raises the incidence of head injuries/concussions, which raises the incidence of depression onset, which raises the incidence of personal tragedies.”
The emails were unsealed by a federal court in Minneapolis in association with a lawsuit filed by a group of former NHL players who claim that the league failed to properly inform players of the dangers of repeated head trauma.
The league did not take action to eliminate fighting, but lawyers for the players say that the email exchange contradicts the formal league stance on hockey and brain injuries.
“The documents speak for themselves,” Charles Zimmerman, a lead lawyer for the players in the case, told the New York Times in an email. “We do believe the NHL should lead on player safety and health issues. Fighting and concussions and head hits, we all know, cause cumulative and progressive cognitive harm. We want these risks and tragedies to be minimized and cared for by the NHL when and if they harm the players who made the sport great.”
The NHL has so far declined comment on the released emails.
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