NHL says Montador ignored medical advice about repeated brain trauma
Steve Montador had problems with alcohol and drugs before he played his first National Hockey League game, and agreed to assume the risks after being warned numerous times by team doctors and trainers about the long-term dangers of playing after suffering repeated concussions, the NHL said in a new court filing.
“During his life, Montador struggled with substance abuse, depression, anxiety, insomnia and strained/abusive personal relationships,” the NHL wrote. “Despite being repeatedly made aware of and informed about potential long-term risks of head injuries, including CTE, by numerous individuals as detailed above, Montador continued to play in the NHL for years.”
The NHL alleges Montador had developed a cocaine addiction and had been using ecstasy by 2003-04, his second full season in the NHL. The league made the allegations in a statement of defence filed on Tuesday, four months after a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Paul Montador, Steve’s father, was transferred from U.S. federal court to Illinois state court.
Paul Montador has alleged the NHL has promoted and profited off of violence while not adequately advising players of the risks of repeated long-term brain injuries. He first filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the NHL in December of 2015.
That lawsuit alleges Montador suffered at least 11 documented concussions in the NHL, including four in 12 weeks in 2012. He played 571 NHL games during a 14-year pro career that included stints with the Flames, Panthers, Ducks, Bruins, Sabres and Blackhawks.
Montador, who was 35 when he died on Feb. 15, 2015, signed with Calgary in 2000 as an undrafted free agent after playing in the Ontario Hockey League with North Bay, Erie and Peterborough.
Three months after Montador’s 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).
The NHL wrote in its latest court filing that Montador suffered concussions in junior hockey and during his time playing in the KHL. Montador finished his pro hockey career with the KHL club Zagreb Medvescak in 2013-14.
“None of these injuries can possibly be attributed to his play in the NHL,” the NHL wrote.
The NHL also wrote that Montador refused to listen to repeated warnings.
“Montador was told by multiple specialists that he should stop playing hockey due to his concussion history but ignored these medical professionals and continued his career, suffering additional head injuries,” the NHL wrote. “Montador also expressly told Blackhawks’ medical personnel that he assumed the risk of continuing to play hockey at the professional level.”
The NHL wrote that Montador was active in NHL and NHL Players’ Association matters throughout his career, serving on the NHL/NHLPA competition committee and as a member of the NHLPA’s 2012 collective bargaining committee, including in sessions devoted to issues of player health/safety.
During the NHLPA’s “Fall Tours” conducted before each season, players in training camps, including Montador, were educated by NHLPA representatives about CTE and potential long-term risks of head injuries, the league wrote.
In 2012, after Montador was diagnosed with a concussion while playing with the Blackhawks, Dr. Elizabeth Pieroth, the team’s neurological consultant, examined Montador under the provisions of the NHL/NHLPA concussion program, the league wrote.
Even though Pieroth explained the science regarding multiple concussions to Montador, he told her that he was comfortable with assuming the risk associated with playing in the NHL, the league wrote.
Dr. Michael Terry, the Blackhawks’ team doctor, also spoke with Montador in November 2012 and concluded Montador understood the potential long-term risks associated with brain injuries, the NHL wrote.
“In January 2013, Dr. Terry told Montador that he was still under playing restrictions and could not engage in any contact,” the NHL wrote. “Montador was also told he should not work out at all – even without contact – through any symptoms associated with head injuries and should stop working out if any symptoms appeared. Nevertheless, in February 2013, Montador told Dr. Terry that despite those playing restrictions, Montador had worked out with other players and had participated in some contact and collision activities. Dr. Terry told Montador he had done this expressly against the Blackhawks’ medical advice and direction.”
The NHL wrote that Montador met with psychologist Dr. Jennifer Mueller during the following month, who noted in a medical record that Montador believed that his continuing to play hockey could be detrimental to his health.
Montador nevertheless decided to play in the American Hockey League for the Rockford IceHogs starting on March 15, 2013, the NHL wrote.
The league also wrote that Montador also sought medical advice regarding his concussions from NHLPA consultant Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher. Kutcher offered Montador medication to help with his symptoms, but Montador declined them, the league wrote.