Plaintiff Jack Carlson (not pictured) is the brother of Slap Shot's Jeff (left) and Steve (center). (Courtesy of Universal)
By Allan Muir
The NHL has been blindsided by another legal headache.
According to TSN legal analyst Eric Macramalla, a second concussion-related lawsuit has been filed against the league.
Nine former players are named as plaintiffs in the 109-page suit filed in U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York: Dan LaCouture, Dan Keczmer, Jack Carlson, Richard Brennan, Brad Maxwell, Mike Peluso, Tom Younghans, Allan Rourke and Scott Bailey.
Peluso is the best-known of the players involved. A veteran of 458 NHL games, he compiled 1,951 penalty minutes, including a career-high 408 with the Blackhawks in 1991-92. He's the most recent of just four players in league history to eclipse the 400-minute mark.
Carlson, who played a total of 25 games in the NHL for the Oilers and the Blues, is the most interesting name among the lot. Despite his limited resume, he's well known for being called up to Edmonton just before he could join brothers Jeff and Steve in their career-making roles as the Hanson brothers in the movie Slap Shot. His role was assumed by Dave Hanson for the film.
The full text of the lawsuit can be read here. At first glance, it seems a surprisingly amateurish effort littered with Wikipedia-quality history, misspelled player names ("Sydney" Crosby) and bad data (Gordie Howe is listed as deceased; Carlson is said to have played 236 NHL games). In making its case, the suit not only makes outlandish claims -- "There are many examples of head trauma to players through which the NHL has generated billions of dollars." -- but it also references the films Gladiator, Friday the 13th, Goon, Youngblood and Mystery, Alaska, as well as an almost unknown play about the league. None of those elements invalidate the claim, but they do make it harder to take it seriously.
As is, this still looks like an uphill battle for the players. The trick will be proving that the league knew about the potential for long-term injury and didn't share that information with the players. Unless there's a smoking gun somewhere, that'll be tough. They also have to prove that whatever injuries they suffered were sustained in the NHL and not in any other junior, college, minor or pro league in which they played. Again, good luck with that.
That doesn't mean this will go away, tough. The NHL will have to address it--look for a brief statement and then silence as they attempt to get it thrown out of court. Even if they fail, this is the sort of case that could take years to resolve. And it probably won't be the last suit to pop up, either. Which begs the question: when will a significant player attach his name to one of these legal actions?