Will former NHL players sue their league like NFL players did?

Believe it or not, hockey season is upon us. As thousands of Boston Bruins fans flood the TD Garden to watch hard slap shots and even harder hits, some may be reminded of the recent brain injury lawsuits that were settled between the National Football League and thousand of former players.

After all, football players aren’t the only ones who have suffered numerous concussions as a result of their profession.

In fact, there have been many professional hockey players who have fallen victim to the same types of brain injuries that were at issue in the lawsuits against the NFL. The question is, will these injured hockey players follow football’s lead and sue their league?

According to the personal injury lawyer who filed the first brain injury lawsuit against the NFL, it’s possible.

“Medically and scientifically, the similarities are there,” the attorney said. “Legally, there may be distinctions that are tougher and easier.”

For example, the lawsuits against the NFL were based on the argument that NFL officials knew for decades that multiple concussions were putting players at risk but failed to do anything to keep the players safe. It is unlikely that the NHL could be accused of the same thing as the league has been proactively addressing head injuries for decades.

Even so, 2011 saw the deaths of three well-known NHL enforcers –Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien and Wade Belak — all of whom had conditions consistent with post-concussion syndrome. Rypien and Belak took their own lives and Boogaard suffered an accidental overdose of alcohol and painkillers.

Boogaard’s family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the NHL, blaming the league for the brain injuries Boogaard suffered as well as failing to treat the player for an obvious addiction to painkillers.

At this point, it doesn’t look like any additional players or their families will join in on the lawsuit like thousands of former football players did after the first claim was filed against the NFL. However, only time will tell.

Source: Assocaited Press, “Like NFL, former NHL players may sue, but unlikely,” Dan Gelston, Sept. 30, 2013