ST. PAUL, Minn. — The former players suing the NHL over concussion-related problems have accused the league of blocking access to Commissioner Gary Bettman for testimony in the case.
Plaintiffs in the federal class-action complaint filed a memorandum requesting Bettman's deposition by July 1. That brief came shortly after U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson issued her order Wednesday denying the league's motion to dismiss the complaint.
Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, in a statement sent Thursday to The Associated Press, denied the NHL was trying to stall or stonewall the attempt to depose Bettman.
"We will be opposing that request on the basis that we believe that the deposition at this stage of the litigation, when there has been no meaningful discovery, is premature," Daly said. "We are not taking the position that the Commissioner can never be deposed; rather, only that it is too early to depose him that quickly."
Attorneys for the former players, citing prior filings by the league, wrote that the NHL has designated Bettman "as the most knowledgeable witness about this case's facts."
The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages and medical monitoring for neurological disorders. They've argued the league had the knowledge and resources to better prevent head trauma, failed to properly warn players of such risks and promoted violent play that led to their injuries.
This combination of several lawsuits by more than 200 former NHL players was formally filed last October. As a class-action complaint, the litigation effectively covers the estimated 5,000 living former NHL players. Dan LaCouture, Mikel Peluso, Gary Leeman, Bernie Nicholls, Dave Christian and Reed Larson are the former players serving as class representatives.