Concussion lawsuit email shows NHL exec claim: ‘We sell and promote hate’

Matt Cooke was never punished for the hit which helped end Marc Savard's career.
Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images

Former Bruin Marc Savard is one of the most well-known cases of a player who saw his hockey career end due to concussions, as the once promising and highly talented forward has been unable to play since the 2010-11 season after multiple concussions caused lasting post-concussion symptoms. Because of cases like Savard's, some NHL players are starting to fight back against the league by suing the NHL for not properly educating players on or protecting players from the lasting effects of concussions.  

Thanks to the lawsuit, many league documents regarding the NHL's treatment of concussions have been released, and according to TSN, one of the emails which is now part of the public record reveals a concerning correspondence between NESN analyst Mike Milbury and then-NHL senior vice president Colin Campbell in the wake of one of the blindside hits Savard suffered.

On March 7, 2010, Savard sustained a serious concussion from a blindside hit to the head from then-Penguin Matt Cooke. There was no penalty on the play, and Campbell announced three days after the hit that the NHL would not punish Cooke for the play much to the ire of Bruins fans. 

According to a March 13, 2010 email exchange (obtained by TSN) between Milbury and Campbell, Milbury asked Campbell if intent to injure was a stand alone call, and Campbell responded in a way which showed the NHL was not interested at the time in curbing physical plays which were part of the way Campbell said the league sold the game. 

A photo of the alleged email between Milbury and Campbell includes the following statement from Campbell: 

Campbell then thanked Milbury for — despite facing an angry Boston fanbase — seemingly siding with the NHL on allowing hits like Cooke's to remain part of the game . 

That email exchange was allegedly one of many involving NHL execs who defended possibly dangerous plays in the name of selling the game. TSN released more of the emails (which are now part of the public record) here.

Despite Campbell's insistence at the time of Savard's concussion that the league would not take action against those types of hits, the NHL did end up cracking down on blindside hits to the head the following season by introducing Rule 48, which prohibits the type of hit which ended up costing Savard his career.

(h/t TSN

“Let's face it Mike … we sell rivalries, we sell and promote hate and when a player hits another player legally we can't drill him because [redacted].”

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