EDINA, Minn. (WCCO) — A tentative settlement in the lawsuit filed against the National Hockey League by former players would bring to an end the five-year old battle.
One-hundred forty former players were suing the league, on grounds that it did little to warn them of the long-term effects of repeat concussions.
Not until 1979 were helmets even required equipment for professional hockey players.
Former NHL All-Star and Minnesota native, Reed Larson joined the Detroit Red Wings in 1976.
Says Larson, one of the plaintiffs, “The longer you’re in it, the more you learn about it. How it can affect you in different ways.”
Larson recalls the policy during his playing days as players policed each other. There were no official protocols requiring time away from the ice after suffering a heavy hit to the head.
Unfortunately, Larson says, concussions seemed part of the game.
Recalls the former defenseman, “You’d get your bell rung. We had roommates back then and we were ordered to check on each other to make sure they were not throwing up or bleeding out your ears.”
Attorneys for the players sought to have the case made into a class action. That would have swelled the number of litigants to more than 5,000 former players.
When that failed last July, pressure to settle the case mounted.
“I’m glad they are willing to meet us wherever they did. Nobody was looking for a pot of gold, millions of dollars, cash, whatever,” Larson said.
In his view, players are getting something worth far more than just money.
The $18.9 million deal will establish brain testing and assessments among former players.
Anyone who tests positive more than twice will qualify for up to $75,000 in medical treatment costs.
Players who filed the action will be entitled to cash payments of $22,000.
More importantly, the NHL will establish a “common good” fund. That will support the health needs of all player retirees, not just the listed plaintiffs.
Adds Larson, “We’re all just trying to be teammates here and look after the guys who are in dire straits and need some help.”
Plaintiffs will have 75 days to opt in or out of the deal.
Under terms of the settlement, the NHL does not admit liability for any of the player’s injuries.