The NHL announced that a tentative settlement was reached today in the lawsuit initially brought against the league in 2013 by nearly 150 former players, who claimed the league had concealed the potential harm caused by head injuries while they played. The agreement, which can be read here, is estimated to be worth almost $19 million, though it does not include the NHL admitting to any wrongdoing.
Each of the 146 players will receive $22,000 cash, in addition to $7 million total in legal fees. The league also agreed to pay for neurological testing and assessment for each player, and will pay up to $75,000 in medical fees for anyone who tests positive on at least two tests. The settlement also calls for the creation of a “Common Good Fund,” which will provide $2.5 million to “benefit the health and welfare of retired players of the NHL.”
In July, a U.S. District Judge denied the former players’ attempt to make this suit a class-action lawsuit, which could have vastly expanded the number of players involved. The 146 who are a part of this suit must choose to opt into the settlement within 75 days, and in doing so they’ll waive their right to future concussion-related legal action against the NHL.
The settlement—which just happened to be announced the same day as the Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony—is for a far, far lower amount than a concussion settlement from a similar lawsuit that the NFL reached with its former players last year. While that settlement has some serious problems of its own, the $1 billion it was said to be worth is almost infinitely more than what the NHL players are getting, which can be attributed to the NFL’s fear that their ex-players would be certified as a class and the NHL’s ex-players getting denied that status.
In recent years, the NHL has been updating its concussion protocol and imposing harsher penalties on hits to the head than it used to. But this settlement isn’t much of a step forward. Commissioner Gary Bettman’s public stance on head trauma is that there is no link between concussions and CTE, and no link between CTE and hockey. After he made the latter claim, scientists at Boston University released a statement saying, “It is misleading for Mr. Bettman to say we haven’t reached any conclusions. The evidence clearly supports that CTE is associated with ice hockey play.”
In 2017, one of those researchers, Dr. Ann McKee, also ripped the NHL for its lack of action on brain injuries in an interview with TSN, after the league hired a neuropathologist named Rudy Castellani, who denies CTE even exists, as a medical expert for the lawsuit.
“The NHL is really in the dark ages,” Dr. McKee said. “It’s denial, obfuscation and the usual tap dance. You ask any seven-year-old and they will tell you CTE is real. The NHL is being ridiculous. It’s almost laughable.”
However, the league still won’t admit that it’s done anything wrong. And today, they’re inducting Bettman into the Hall of Fame.