Here’s why the NHL concussion settlement didn’t come close to the NFL’s

The NHL concussion tentative settlement announced Monday isn’t close to what former NFL players secured — and there was never a chance it would be.

“It’s a totally different culture,” Charles Zimmerman, the lead attorney for the NHL players, told USA TODAY Sports. “When hockey players leave the sport, they still love the game. NFL players leave football and, for a many of them, they hate the game. Nobody wanted to get involved in the lawsuit. They want to stay connected to hockey."

The max a former NFL player is entitled to is $5 million and that settlement covered more than 20,000 players with an estimated cost to the league in excess of $1 billion. The NHL settlement includes only 318 players who will get up to $22,000 — roughly 3% of the minimum salary for a current NHL player — and each is entitled to medical testing and treatment of up to $75,000 each.

Only 146 former players put their names to this litigation, a list that included Steve Montador, a former Chicago Blackhawks player diagnosed with the debilitating brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) after his death in 2015.  Another 172 players’ names were made public as part of the agreement agreed to after about a year of mediation.

That’s far less than the more than 4,000 former players or their families who sued the NFL. Unlike the NFL list dotted with Hall of Famers, the list of former NHL players lacked such star power with many of the names only recognizable to the most hardcore fans.

“You don’t think we tried?” Zimmerman responded when asked about why none of the NHL’s former greats were included in the litigation.

The case took a hit in July when a federal judge in Minnesota denied Zimmerman’s bid for class-action status. Had it been successful, more than 5,000 players would have been included.

Zimmerman said despite the setback “it was a good settlement.”

Along with the the medical treatment and testing covered by the NHL, the players involved in the settlement do not have to pay legal fees. There’s also a common good fund that will be established to aid retired players, including those who have not sought a case against the NHL. Zimmerman said the size of that fund had not yet been determined.

Players can opt out of the tentative settlement, although if a good portion do so the NHL could terminate the agreement.

 “The clause just protects the NHL, which likely won’t terminate if just a few retired players don’t take the deal,” sports law attorney Daniel Wallach said. “The right would likely be exercised if large numbers of retired players don’t take the deal. Nobody expects 100 percent.”



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