The case follows several similar lawsuits filed against the National Football League, which call into question how much responsibility the league has to inform players of risks and keep them safe. More than two years after the first suit was filed, however, a federal judge in Philadelphia has yet to determine whether more than 200 lawsuits filed on behalf of more than 4,300 former NFL players should go to trial or be settled by arbitration as a labor dispute.
"I would say if a case gets into arbitration, it's going to favor management, the NHL," Anderson said, adding that the dispute would also happen behind closed doors. "They're not going to have the opportunity to depose members of the NHL and really try to find out what they knew and when they knew it."
The Boston University's Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy announced in December that of the 85 brains donated by the families of deceased veterans and athletes with histories of repeated head trauma, its researchers found CTE in 68 of them. Four of them played for the NHL and one was an amateur hockey player.
Dr. Mike Fingerhood, a professor and addiction specialist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said it's especially hard for athletes like Boogaard to overcome their addictions to pain medications because injuries are part of their jobs. He said the number of players battling addiction is probably underreported.
"In violent sports, like hockey and football, players unfortunately are left with having repeated injuries," he said. "If someone has an addiction, they're set up to have problems."
Still, Fingerhood said Boogaard's CTE is separate from his addiction because he wasn't prescribed painkillers for head injuries. He said it's also not yet clear whether CTE leads to substance abuse.