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Wayne Gretzky hopes NHL can move forward after concussion settlement


TORONTO — Daniel Carcillo wants Wayne Gretzky to step up and help the players who protected the hockey legend during his career. But Carcillo, one of the plaintiffs in a concussion lawsuit against the NHL, will have to settle for a show of support for the research that has been done on the issue.

Speaking before the Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony Monday night, Gretzky didn't answer whether he felt US$22,000 — the agreed-upon amount in the settlement for each player who opts in — is a good number for the players. However, he did give his thoughts on concussions.

"When I played, we didn't know what concussions were," Gretzky said. "My kids ask me all the time, 'Dad, did you ever have a concussion?' I probably did, but we didn't know. Hopefully we've got enough knowledge now that we protect the players of today, hopefully we take care of the players the best (we) can from the past and we move forward."

The $18.9-million settlement, announced Monday, is with more than 300 retired players who sued the league and accused it of failing to protect them from head injuries or warning them of the risks involved with playing.

The lawsuit, consolidated in federal court in Minnesota, was by far the largest facing the league. The NHL, as it has for years, did not acknowledge any liability for the players' claims in the proposed settlement and can terminate the deal if all 318 players or their estates don't elect to participate.

Carcillo, a native of King City, Ont., who played 429 NHL games, used Twitter on Monday to urge Gretzky to "use his platform to help the men who protected him throughout his career."

Glenn Healy, the executive director of the NHL Alumni Association, says discussion on the issue will continue in the aftermath of the settlement. 

"For me, I don't play the blame game," he said. "I don't analyze it in any way. The plaintiffs had legal representation. That's what the settlement is, but for me this is not the finish line. This is the start line and it's up to me to move forward to make things better."

The settlement is significantly less than the billion-dollar agreement reached between the NFL and its former players on the same issue of head injuries. The NFL settlement involved more 20,000 players, while the NHL's had 318.

Healy was asked if he felt a lower number of players played a role in the deal.

"The players that came forward feel maligned and I would respect all of their opinions," Healy said. "But, by that all being said, we need to find a way to get players functionally integrated back to their world, and their world functionally integrated back to them, so that we don't have a situation where a player is kind of a walking wounded ... I need to get an answer for that. And I'm going to. I will fight for it. The settlement today is great, but we're not stopping as alumni. We're going to fight for it with our own initiatives and there'll be some news probably moving forward in a short time."

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With files from Canadian Press national hockey writer Joshua Clipperton.

The Canadian Press

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