A CTV News/TSN investigation reveals that several hundred NHL players have been paid compensation for head injuries they suffered during games — a much higher number than the 105 currently involved in a concussion lawsuit against the league.
Documents show that hundreds of players filed for workers compensation in the state of California between 2008 and 2015.
In California, players from any team used to be able to make a claim if they felt their injuries worsened while playing there, until the law was changed in 2014. So an NHL player from a team in Canada who suffered a concussion while playing in California could file for compensation there.
In total, 434 NHL players filed and received a workers compensation payout. Out of those, 377 players — or 87 per cent — received money for claims that included head injuries.
Among them is former Toronto Maple Leafs captain Rick Vaive, who was initially part of the lawsuit, but has since removed his name.
Vaive submitted a California workers comp claim in 2013, though he said it wasn’t concussion-related.
“Not for a head injury, no,” Vaive said when asked about the claim. “Just like everybody else, just for various injuries.”
His claim, though, says he suffered injuries from May of 1978 to May of 1992. The list of body parts on the form includes the head, the neck and upper extremities.
Vaive is among the hundreds who were paid for injuries that included head trauma. Other big names like Paul Kariya, Alex Mogilny and Rob Niedermayer also received payouts.
Lawyer Modesto Diaz filed claims for several former NHLers.
“One of the things I tell a potential client is the most important thing I can do is try to get them an award for future medical care. The cash payouts are not that large,” he said.
The trend, however, came to an end two years ago when the state changed its laws.
“We found that there were a billion dollars in claims that were being filled out by out-of-state workers against out-of-state employers and they all turned out to be professional athletes,” said Henry Perea, former California State Assemblyman.
The majority of claims were made by former football and baseball players. Lobbying by the National Football League eventually led to the California law to be changed.
From a report by TSN Senior Correspondent Rick Westhead
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