Tuesday October 21st, 2014

Two separate class-action lawsuits rocked North American professional hockey leagues Monday: the National Hockey League came under fire for its handling of concussed players while the Canadian Hockey League - the governing body of three regional hockey leagues across the U.S. and Canada - was served with a class-action suit alleging teams conspired to force players into signing contracts that breach minimum wage laws.

The NHL suit was brought against the league in federal court in Minnesota. U.S. District Court Judge Susan Richard Nelson will hear the case, which the Associated Press reports is comprised of several previously filed lawsuits against the NHL. A group of former NHL players is seeking "a jury trial for unspecified financial damages and NHL-funded medical monitoring for neurological disorders," according to the Associated Press. 

The players are alleging the league had "knowledge and resources" to better prevent head trauma injuries and "failed to properly warn players of the risks" surrounding those injuries. 

In the Canadian Hockey League lawsuit, which was brought in Toronto seeks $180 million in outstanding wages and other compensation for young players who were compensated with as little as $35 per week during their CHL playing days. The plaintiffs allege the league and its 60 teams "conspired and agreed together . . . to act in concert to demand or require that all players sign a contract which the defendants knew was unlawful," according to the Toronto Star

The named plaintiff in the suit is Sam Berg, the 18-year-old son of former Toronto Maple Leafs player Bill Berg. CHL Commissioner David Branch reaffirmed the importance of the league to defend the amateur status of players, saying not defending that status could have a huge impact on all sport in Canada.

In August the NFL reached a $765 million settlement in a concussion lawsuit of its own brought about by former players. Similarly to the plaintiffs in the NHL lawsuit, plaintiffs in the NFL lawsuit alleged the NFL did not properly warn players of the dangers of concussions. 

- Will Green

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