Class Action Filed Against the WHL, the CHL, the OHL, the QMJHL, and Hockey Canada

The link between repetitive head injuries and long-term brain damage is a topic that has been getting lots of attention recently, with several large advancements being made in the study of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) over the past decade. For those unaware, CTE is a neurodegenerative disease caused by repeated head injuries which are especially common in players of contact sports. Although the exact symptoms are still being studied, and vary from person-to-person, reported problems have included troubles thinking, unstable moods, various behavioral problems, along with a disproportionately high correlation with dementia and suicide. It also appears that CTE often worsens over time.

There have been many lawsuits against the major sports leagues in the past decade for CTE-related issues, with Class Actions being filed against the NHL, NFL, and NCAA, amongst others. Guardian Law Group is currently the co-counsel on a pending Class Action lawsuit against the WHL, the CHL, the OHL, the QMJHL, and Hockey Canada.

It’s no shock to anyone that most sports involve a level of violence. This is something everyone knows but few actually talk about. “It’s how things have always been” or “it’s just a part of the game”. This suit doesn’t exist to challenge the notion of violence in sports as a whole, it exists to challenge one very specific instance of violence: permitted bare-knuckle fighting by minors.

While violence in sports is common, what is not common is the ability to fight with another player during the match. This is something almost uniquely applicable to hockey. For instance, in baseball, basketball, or soccer, if there is a fight that breaks out this is viewed as misconduct, usually resulting in a suspension and/or a fine. The attitude of stopping the match during a fight then giving players involved in the fight a 5-minute penalty then putting them back in the game doesn’t just tolerate fighting, it essentially incorporates the fights into the game.

This is especially worrisome when you realize most of the players involved in these leagues are, by definition, children. The age ranges for these leagues vary, but most of the hockey leagues involved in this Class Action are only open to players aged 16 to 20. Some, like the WHL, are open to players as young as 15 and restrict the number of players aged 20 on a team (in the WHL a team’s roster may only have 3 players who are 20 years old).

These children are seen by countless coaches, referees, officials, and spectators “throwing down their gloves” and engaging in bare-knuckle brawling for entertainment. These children do not receive proper medical attention before being allowed back on the ice, nor are their proper protocols in place to follow-up to ensure their wellbeing. Sometimes these children lose consciousness due to these fights – a clear sign of head trauma.

This is a matter of concern not only to former players but is important for our children and all future hockey players. Hockey is the most popular sport in Canada, but until significant measures are put in place more and more young members of our society are going to suffer serious, life-altering injuries. This case is about standing up for our minors and letting everyone know that we as a society value the safety of our youth.

If you or someone you know has played in any of the above-listed hockey leagues since the 1974-1975 season and have experienced a brain injury or exhibited any of the symptoms of brain trauma, please get in touch. Show your support for reducing head trauma in minor league hockey. Guardian Law Group may be reached at either (403) 457-7778 or

Clint Docken