A former hockey enforcer has brought a class action lawsuit in B.C. (Canada) Superior Court against several North American hockey leagues alleging they failed to protect their players from traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) and their long-term consequences.
James McEwan, 31, the former captain of the Western Hockey League’s Kelowna Rockets, reportedly fought more than 200 times in the major junior leagues. He now claims he has symptoms associated with chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE.
McEwan named the WHL, Canadian Hockey League (CHL), and Hockey Canada as defendants. He is seeking to represent former and current players in the CHL, who did not play in the National Hockey League, but suffered TBIs during their careers.
Central to his claim is the allegation that fights were “not just condoned and tolerated by the coaches and managers of the teams he had played for, but… encouraged, praised and rewarded.”
Further, then claim reads that “Mr. McEwan was involved in 25 fights throughout the season and was ‘glorified’ on numerous social media outlets as holding the best fight with the most punches landed, and was voted the third most entertaining player. The side effect of his continuous head trauma began to have a noticeable impact in his day-to-day life. He was beginning to experience severe anxiety, mood swings, personality changes and angry outbursts. Mr. McEwan began to consume copious amounts of alcohol in an effort to cope with the physical pain and mental distress he was regularly experiencing.”
He ultimately “began experiencing severe depression, anxiety, mood swings, memory loss, confusion, angry outbursts, and suicidal thoughts.”
The plaintiff alleged the defendants “should have known, or ought to have known, that multiple sub concussive and concussive blows to the head would lead to long term injury including but not limited to memory loss, dementia, depression, and CTE and its related symptoms.”
He also pointed out that neuropathologist Dr. Ann McKee, a researcher with Boston University, has diagnosed CTE in the brains of four former junior hockey players, who never advanced to the NHL. All four ultimately committed suicide before the age of 30.