Bryan Berard, top pick in '95 draft, files concussion-related lawsuit against NHL

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Former NHL defenseman Bryan Berard has joined a large number of his fellow ex-players in their fight with the league over the issue of concussions and brain damage.

Berard, the first selection in the 1995 entry draft and the winner of the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year in 1997, filed a lawsuit claiming the league failed to protect him from multiple brain injuries, TMZ.com reported Thursday. It is not known how much Berard is seeking in damages.

TMZ reported that Berard, 41, suffered upwards of five concussions during his playing career, which included stints with the Islanders, Maple Leafs, Rangers, Bruins, Blackhawks and Blue Jackets from 1996 to 2008. He is claiming that he is dealing with serious medical issues.

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“The time has come for the NHL to not only care for those former players on whose backs and brains the League reaped billions of dollars, but also finally to put long-term player safety over profit,” Berard claimed in the suit, which TMZ quoted.

Berard, a native of Rhode Island, also suffered a career-altering eye injury as a member of the Maple Leafs in 2000. Then-Senators forward Marian Hossa accidentally slashed Berard in the right eye, causing a retinal tear and a detached retina. Berard was forced to sit out the following season as he recovered from the injury. 

In 2001, Berard received a $6 million settlement from Standard Security Life after he lost vision in the eye as a result of the incident, the New York Post reported in 2014. He returned the payment as part of an agreement with the company when he returned to the NHL. 

The Post also reported that Berard argued in a counterclaim against Standard in 2013 that he shouldn’t have had to repay the insurance company. Standard had sued Berard for fraud before Berard could file his own suit. The U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York eventually ruled in the insurance company’s favor.

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“I look back and I wish I could’ve seen how I could have played, and how long I could have played with being healthy,” Berard told ESPN in 2016. 

Berard joins a large group of ex-players who have taken legal action against the league in recent years. The CBC reported in 2016 that more than 100 players had joined of a lawsuit filed in 2013 in Minnesota. The plaintiffs claimed the NHL failed to protect or educate players even though it knew about the connection between concussions and brain damage. Six other former players filed suit in 2015 in New York. 

Former players Daniel Carcillo and Nick Boynton filed their own lawsuit last June, claiming the league “failed to warn players about the long-term risk of brain damage from fighting.”