Congress will once again turn its attention to concussions Friday morning, when the House Energy & Commerce Committee holds a hearing on the effects of concussions in youth sports.
But ahead of the hearing, a veteran of the U.S. hockey team that pulled off the sport's most iconic upset -- the "Miracle on Ice" victory over the Soviet Union at the 1980 Olympics -- wants to know why federal lawmakers haven't paid attention to the plight of former professional hockey players who are dealing with the debilitating effects of the head injuries.
"Generations of former NHL players are dealing with the fallout from concussions they suffered while playing in the League," Dave Christian, a Hockey Hall of Famer, said in a statement issued to The Huffington Post on Friday. "I am hopeful the NHL will come to recognize the harmful effects of its past mistreatment of head injuries and protect its current and future players from the same fate."
"I am hopeful Congress will turn the attention they have shown other sports leagues on this issue toward the NHL and ensure that the league is taking the steps necessary to limit brain injuries to the fullest extent possible," Christian's statement continued.
I am hopeful the NHL will come to recognize the harmful effects of its past mistreatment of head injuries and protect its current and future players from the same fate. Dave Christian
Christian, a part of the gold medal-winning U.S. hockey team at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics, played in parts of 16 seasons in the NHL for the Winnipeg Jets, Washington Capitals, Boston Bruins, St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks. He is currently one of more than 100 former NHL players suing the league over its treatment of concussions. The suit is similar to the one filed -- and recently settled -- by more than 4,500 former NFL players against their league.
Friday's hearing in the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations is focused on the effects of concussions in youth sports, a worthwhile cause given the litany of unanswered questions about the risks of concussions and repeated hits to the head of young athletes.
Kevin Margarucci, the manager of player safety for USA Hockey, the sport's American governing body, is scheduled to testify.
But while this committee and others have held numerous hearings regarding concussions and their effects in football and the NFL -- including one in March at which an NFL representative acknowledged a link between the sport and the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE -- it has not yet examined the NHL's current or past management of concussions.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has claimed there is "no evidence yet" to link CTE and concussions suffered by NHL players. Asked about the potential connection after the NFL's admission in March, Bettman said only that "it’s fairly clear that playing hockey isn’t the same as football."
"And as we’ve said all along," Bettman continued, "we’re not going to get into a public debate on this.”
The NHL filed an unsuccessful motion to dismiss the lawsuit from former players in March, and the case is currently in the discovery process, during which the league has turned over more than 2 million documents to players' attorneys. Bettman has said the league has no desire to settle the suit, as the NFL did.
“They’re in denial. They don’t want to have to get out their wallets,” Rudy Poeschek, a former NHL defenseman who is also suing the league, told HuffPost last year. “Once you’re done with them, they don’t care about a player like me. Unless you’re a superstar in the league, they don’t care about you when you’re done.”