Hockey Violence and the Long Arm of the Law

(Editor’s note: What follows is a brief excerpt of an article written by Jon Heshka, Associate Professor of the Law & Adventure Studies Department at Thompson Rivers University. The full article will appear in the December Concussion Litigation Reporter and Sports Litigation Alert.)

What began as a hotly contested hockey game has turned into an international legal dispute. With more twists, turns and double salchows than a figure skating routine, this case involves two players from different countries playing in a third country, two insurers, criminal and civil proceedings, and the judicial systems of two countries including two levels of court in the United States and at least three in Switzerland.

The “incident” as the US Court of Appeals Sixth Circuit characterized it, happened during the finals of the Swiss National League A on October 31, 2000. American Kevin Miller, playing for HC Davos, collided with Canadian Andrew McKim of the ZSC Lions. McKim was checked hard from behind by Miller 0.38 seconds after shooting the puck on net. The check caused McKim to suffer a whiplash-type injury and then hit the ice hard with his forehead.

Contact sports like hockey hadn’t yet witnessed the concussion litigation crisis now confronting the NFL so there was limited awareness about the identification, treatment and management of sports-related concussions. Nevertheless, just after the collision, McKim’s cognitive deficit was sufficiently pronounced that he could not even recall if he even had children. McKim experienced a traumatic brain injury and a sprain to his cervical spine.

McKim’s career was over. Miller, however, went on to play two additional seasons with HC Davos, play two seasons in American minor hockey leagues and later for the NHL Detroit Red Wings.

Miller was suspended for eight games and fined CFH 3000 ($3200 USD) by the Swiss Ice Hockey Association. In September 2005, the Zurich District Court … (subscribe to CLR to see the rest of the article at https://concussionpolicyandthelaw.com/subscribe/)

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