Tuesday, March 29, 2016

In Emails, N.H.L. Officials Conceded Concussion Risks of Fights - The New York Times



Commissioner Gary Bettman in January. Emails among N.H.L. officials, unsealed in a court battle, acknowledge that so-called enforcers frequently use pills “to ease the pain.” CreditMark Humphrey/Associated Press

The N.H.L.’s top officials have privately acknowledged that fighting could lead to concussions and long-term health problems, including depression, and that so-called enforcers frequently use pills “to ease the pain,” according to emails unsealed during a continuing court battle with former players.
The exchanges, mostly between Commissioner Gary Bettman and his top lieutenants in 2011, contradict what the league has said publicly and what it has argued in defending itself from a class-action lawsuit brought by dozens of former players over the effects of concussions.
After three N.H.L. enforcers died between May and August 2011 — all either by suicide or accidentally while struggling with personal problems — league officials contemplated in a series of emails whether to eliminate fighting from the league.
“An interesting question is whether being an NHL fighter does this to you (I don’t believe so) or whether a certain type of person (who wouldn’t otherwise be skilled enough to be an NHL player) gravitates to this job (I believe more likely),” Bettman wrote in an email on Sept. 3, 2011.
The email was sent to Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly and to Brendan Shanahan, then the league’s senior vice president for player safety and hockey operations. Shanahan, now president of the Toronto Maple Leafs, started the email chain by sharing a link to an article in the newspaper The Globe and Mail of Toronto, with the headline “Getting Rid of Hockey’s Goons.”

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