A former Kelowna Rockets captain is suing the Canadian Hockey League, Western Hockey League and Hockey Canada, saying the leagues didn’t do enough to inform players about the repercussions from brain injuries.
James McEwan, 31, has been involved in more than 200 fights in his hockey career, spanning from 2004 to 2014. At 19, he became assistant captain for the Kelowna Rockets for the 2006/2007 season.
“McEwan was involved in 25 fights throughout the season and was glorified on numerous social media outlets as holding the best fight with the most punches landed,” according to court documents. The former enforcer claims the results of the fights during that season resulted in a lasting head trauma that began to affect his life.
“He was beginning to experience severe anxiety, mood swings, personality changes and angry outbursts,” the documents said.
At 20, and then team captain for The Rockets for the 2007/2008 season, McEwan claims the results of 11 fights lead to a head trauma and concussion, after which be began experiencing “severe depression, anxiety, mood swings, memory loss, confusion, angry outbursts and suicidal thoughts.”
The documents said McEwan would not have been involved in the fights if he was aware of the long-term health implications of concussions and impacts to the head.
McEwan said fighting was not only condoned but tolerated and encouraged in the CHL.
He claims his injuries were caused by negligence of the hockey leagues as they failed to warn teams about the long-term medical risks associated with head trauma, failed to follow or launch a concussion awareness campaign, and failed to enforce any sufficient concussion protocol.
McEwan is seeking an amount equal to the past cost of related health care services as well as the future costs of services.
The allegations have not been proven in court.
Kelowna Rockets general manager Bruce Hamilton said he would not be commenting on the lawsuit as it’s before the courts. Messages have also been left for McEwan for comment. Spokespersons from the CHL had Hockey Canada have not responded to requests for comment by Tuesday’s newspaper deadline.
“We have not yet been served with a statement of claim. At such time as we receive one, we will thoroughly review it and if appropriate we will provide further comment,” said WHL commissioner Ron Robison in an emailed statement.