In the month before he died, former Blackhawks defenseman Steve Montador was preparing to sue the NHL over its failure to deal with the issue of concussions and to warn its players of the risk of long-term brain damage from concussions.
William Gibbs of the Chicago firm Corboy & Demetrio, the attorney whom Montador had retained, expects a lawsuit still will be filed on behalf of Montador and his family.
“I will need to talk to the family about that but I’d be surprised if we didn’t continue,” Gibbs said Friday.
Montador, 35, who played one of his 10 NHL seasons with the Blackhawks, was found dead Sunday in his Mississauga, Ont., home.
Officials have ruled out foul play. An autopsy was to be performed to determine cause of death.
The last of several concussions Montador had sustained ended his NHL career after the 2011-12 season with the Blackhawks. He went on to play 14 games in 2012-13 with the Hawks’ Rockford AHL affiliate and 11 games in 2013-14 with the Zagreb, Croatia team in the Kontinental Hockey League.
More than 70 NHL players are named parties in a class action lawsuit for which the most recent filing, on behalf of 29 more players, accuses the NHL of, among other things, a “long history of dragging its feet to protect its players.”
Gibbs said he was representing Montador in the class action suit, originally filed in 2013 by 10 former players, and “to initiate his own litigation.” The attorney said he had begun to prepare the individual lawsuit.
Montador is not among the named plaintiffs to date in the class action litigation.
Montador reportedly had decided a couple of years ago to donate his brain after his death to scientists studying Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a degenerative disease related to repeated concussions that can be found only post-mortem.
Both Derek Boogaard, who died at 28 in 2011 of an accidental overdose of prescription painkillers and alcohol, and Bob Probert, who died at 45 in 2010 of heart failure, were posthumously diagnosed with CTE.
Boogaard and Probert, who played his final seven NHL seasons for the Blackhawks, were known primarily as enforcers. Montador also was a frequent battler, involved in 14 fights during the 2008-09 season alone and 69 during his NHL career, according to hockeyfights.com.
Hockey’s indulgence — some would say promotion — of fighting is seen by many as a contributing factor in the game’s concussion problems.
“It is unfortunate that it takes these tragic events to spur conversation and change,” Gibbs said in answer to a question about the effect Montador’s death would have on the class action litigation.
“But the reality is Derek Boogaard’s death began a dialogue about the effects of repetitive head trauma on NHL players’ brains and the impact that can have on their later-in-life cognitive or mental health.”