The National Hockey League wants Hockey Hall of Fame goalie and author Ken Dryden to be directed to turn over all of his interview notes and records produced in connection with publishing Game Change: The Life and Death of Steve Montador and the Future of Hockey, Dryden's 2017 biography of the late NHL player.
In a document filed June 29 in U.S. district court in Minneapolis, the NHL asked a judge to issue a request for a Canadian court to direct Dryden to turn over his records.
Montador was 35 when he died on Feb. 15, 2015. Three months after his death, researchers with the Canadian Sports Concussion Project at Toronto’s Krembil Neuroscience Centre disclosed the former NHL defenceman had suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
Montador’s father, Paul, sued the NHL in December 2015, alleging the league has promoted violence and profited off of it while not adequately advising players of the risks of repeated long-term brain injuries.
The Montador family’s lawsuit against the NHL was put on hold for four years while the NHL fought a proposed class-action lawsuit filed by more than 100 former NHL players. Now that there is a settlement in that case – which bars nearly 300 former players and their families of pursuing legal action in the future in exchange for a $22,000 (U.S.) per player settlement – Montador’s case is moving forward.
“Dryden’s book includes numerous details about Montador that are relevant to plaintiff’s allegations in this case,” the NHL wrote. “Dryden details physical injuries such as concussions and other hits Montador sustained, including prior to his NHL career, as well as resulting symptoms, fights involving Montador both before his NHL career and outside of playing hockey, drug and alcohol use, including before his NHL career, depression, anxiety and other sources of personal stress, including complicated personal relationships, Montador’s research or knowledge regarding concussions or their effects, including conversations about his brain health, financial losses, large expenditures and potential investments, alleged memory loss or forgetfulness.”
The NHL wrote that Dryden conducted research and interviewed a number of named and unidentified sources, including family, friends, coaches, teammates and others who provided unique information regarding Montador.
The NHL wrote that Montador’s lawyer does not oppose the NHL’s request and that Dryden’s attorney takes no position. The league said Dryden’s records – including written notes as well as any video and audio recordings – would be crucial to its defence and unavailable elsewhere.
“There is no easily obtainable alternative source for these documents, which are unique to Dryden because they were provided to or created by him under circumstances that cannot be replicated,” the NHL wrote.
The NHL has insisted it isn’t to blame for Montador’s death.
Any legal claims related to Montador’s injury “may be barred, in whole or in part, from recovery due to his contributory and/or comparative negligence,” the NHL alleged.
“Any injury or damage sustained by [Montador] was caused, in whole or in part, by [Montador's] own lack of due care and fault, and/or by pre-existing conditions; and/or the lack of due care of others for whom the NHL has no responsibility or control,” the league wrote in its answer to Paul Montador’s lawsuit.
The family’s lawsuit alleges that Montador suffered at least 11 documented concussions in the NHL, including four in 12 weeks in 2012. Montador played 571 NHL games during a 14-year pro career that included stints with the Flames, Panthers, Ducks, Bruins, Sabres and Blackhawks.
Toronto neurosurgeon Dr. Charles Tator told a government hearing in Ottawa last year that he examined Montador's records and discovered that he had actually suffered 19 documented concussions. In an interview with TSN, Dr. Tator said that total included brain injuries Montador suffered in junior hockey, the NHL and in his final season as a professional in Zagreb, where he played 11 games for a Croatian-based team in the KHL.