Bettman worthy of Hall of Fame, but not for treatment of players

Daniel Carcillo

How strange a statistical oddity can it be when someone enjoys the peak moment of his career the same day many believe it could the worst?

That might have been the case with National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto on Monday, which also happened to be the date when the league settled its concussion lawsuit with its players.

Despite 318 plaintiffs involved in the litigation, most claiming the NHL withheld information about the dangers of hockey-related brain injuries, actively promoted fighting and failed to assist players in the transition to everyday living, Bettman continues to deny there is any connection between hockey and brain injuries.

Former Flyer Daniel Carcillo, for one, says the $18.9-million settlement, if accepted by the ex-players, isn’t nearly enough.

He believes that the $7 million doled out to the players (about $22,000 per man) and $75,000 to cover medical expenses doesn’t come close to being fair.

Carcillo, nicknamed “Car Bomb’’ in his playing days, accumulated seven diagnosed concussions during his career, much of the damage likely caused by more than 100 fights.

He says he’s not going to accept the settlement, even though it’s believed up to 90 percent of the plaintiffs will.

Good for him.

It’s insulting enough the mere pittance of money offered in the proposed settlement.

But what really disrespects the players is the refusal of Bettman, and, by extension, the 31 NHL owners to offer an apology.

And along with that, the decision not to take a vow to start making things right by creating an awareness program to educate players on the risks involved in playing the sport.

It’s a subject that’s dear to the heart of ex-Flyers like Eric Lindros and Keith Primeau.

Lindros had his career shortened by multiple concussions over the final decade of his career.

Today, he chooses to be an activist in trying to change the sport to make it less violent.

Primeau also had to retire early and to this day still has to deal with the effects of multiple head injuries. He’s gone so far as to say he will donate his brain to science after he dies, assisting researchers studying the effects of CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy).

The NHL didn’t even bother to explain its reasoning for the final olive branch.

The statement reads: “The NHL does not acknowledge any liability for any of Plaintiffs’ claims in these cases. However, the parties agree that the settlement is a fair and reasonable resolution and that it is in the parties’ respective best interests to receive the benefits of the settlement and to avoid the burden, risk and expense of further litigation.”

To Carcillo, it all sounds like a bunch of BS, and that’s not bachelor of science.

He’s particularly steamed that the NHL has the right to terminate the deal if all 318 plaintiffs don’t agree to it.

“I’m going to fight,” Carcillo told The New York Times. “I’m going to fight until the end. It’s not acceptable. Not in the slightest.”

Carcillo has been a critic of the league for several years. While the game treated him right, allowing him to earn millions of dollars and two Stanley Cups with the Chicago Blackhawks, that doesn’t mean he was working in a safe workplace.

With many years of post-career life to live, he wonders if it was worth the price.

Carcillo was one of the most honest players ever to deal with the Flyers media during his time here, so why are we not surprised he can be brutally candid now.

“When I say the NHL is killing human beings,’’ Carcillo said. “They’re killing human beings.’’

Carcillo filed his own lawsuit in June and that drew disfavor in some quarters.

He’s lost appearance fees. Speaking engagements have gone away. But that hasn’t stopped him from his lone wolf crusade.

“Alone doesn’t mean lonely,” he said. “I like doing my own thing.”

It’s safe to assume some of this harsh language is being aimed at Bettman.

To be clear, Bettman has done a lot for hockey over the past two decades, even if he does wear the villain’s hat at times, particularly for standing firm on hockey’s first salary cap and costing the sport its entire 2004-05 season.

There has been unparalleled financial growth, participation in the Winter Olympics (until the 2018 Games in Korea) and widespread, successful expansion.

But the disregard for players’ health casts a dark shadow over all those achievements.

The feeling seems to be hockey’s power structure does not want to discourage young players from participating in the sport, thereby jeopardizing its future.

However, what do you take these young players (and their parents) for? Idiots? They read your denials and most likely just shake their heads. Some might be turned away from the sport already over this type of arrogance and ignorance.

Notice that early in this column it was written Carcillo suffered seven “diagnosed’’ concussions. Who knows how many more he had that doctors never detected.

He’s had so many there are some he can’t even remember.

“What’s the point of playing professional sports — it’s supposed to be for the memories,” Carcillo said. “And if you can’t remember that anymore, it’s really scary.”

Scary indeed.

Maybe you should think about that the next time you issue a statement about hockey and brain injuries, Mr. Bettman.

You no doubt will have fond memories of your Hockey Hall of Fame induction this past Monday.

The difference between you and Danny Carcillo is, you will have a healthy brain to remember them with.

 

Wayne Fish
About Wayne Fish 456 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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