Emails show NHL’s discussions about fighting, concussions and ‘personal tragedies’


As part of an ongoing concussion lawsuit, a Minnesota federal court unsealed some provocative emails between Gary Bettman, Bill Daly and former Department of Player Safety head Brendan Shanahan.

TSN’s Rick Westhead tracked down those emails and transcribed some of those exchanges, with a chain from 2011 (a time of considerable tragedies for enforcers) standing out.

It’s a lot to absorb, and you absolutely should read the article at TSN, but perhaps we can provide a quick synopsis.

Maybe the most significant exchange took place between Bettman and Daly while they were discussing a Globe & Mail article titled “Getting Rid of Hockey’s Goons,” which Shanahan apparently sent to them:

“Do you remember what happened when we tried to eliminate the staged fights?” Bettman wrote in a Sept. 3, 2011, email to Shanahan and Daly. “The ‘fighters’ objected and so did the pa [NHLPA]. Eliminating fighting would mean eliminating the jobs of the ‘fighters’, meaning that these guys would not have NHL careers. An interesting question is whether being an NHL fighter does this to you (I don’t believe so) or whether a certain type of person (who wouldn’t otherwise be skilled enough to be an NHL player) gravitates to this job (I believe more likely).”

Daly replied: “I tend to think its a little bit of both. Fighting raises the incidence of head injuries/concussions, which raises the incidence of depression onset, which raises the incidence of personal tragedies.”

Lawyers for the former NHL players keyed on Daly’s comment in particular, as Michael Cashman told Westhead that “this internal email from senior NHL executive Bill Daly to commissioner Bettman acknowledges the link between head injuries, depression and personal tragedies.”

The NHL attempted to get those and other emails sealed by the court, but back in January, Bettman said “they’ll be a distraction at best, but I don’t think they impact the rest of the case.”

(We’ll have to wait and see as far as that is concerned.)

The above exchange is probably the most interesting detailed in Westhead’s article, although there are plenty of other facets worth exploring, so absolutely give it a read.