TSN’s Rick Westhead has been busy combing through public transcripts from the NHL’s CTE and concussion lawsuit brought about by former players who feel that the NHL was negligent in the handling of players with traumatic brain injuries. Some truly staggering statements from those transcripts are now being made public thanks to Westhead’s diligence and at the center of some of the most controversial statements is former Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello.
In particular, former New Jersey Devils enforcer Mike Peluso accuses Lamoriello of forcing him to play while still injured, which has led to Peluso being diagnosed with dementia and epilepsy. Peluso, now 52 years old and suffering from a litany of post concussion disorders, holds Lamoriello and the Devils responsible for his health issues.
In particular, Peluso’s lawyer Stuart Davidson believes that three consecutive concussions suffered during the winter of 1993/94 have in effect altered Peluso’s health forever.
Lamoriello was asked about Peluso’s return to the Devils lineup in December 1993, days after suffering a concussion. Pelisse’s brain injury at the time was so bad, Devils massage therapist Bobby Huddleston said in a 2016 interview with CTV’s W5, that a confused Peluso dressed, undressed and showered at least four times following a Dec. 18, 1993 game against the Quebec Nordiques. Pelisse was hospitalized that night.
Peluso, then 28, had suffered a concussion after he hit his head on the ice during a fight against Nordiques enforcer Tony Twist. (Ten pages of Lamoriello’s testimony after he is asked about the Peluso-Twist fight are redacted – hidden from public view.)
Peluso returned to the Devils’ lineup days later and hit his head on the ice again, this time during a fight against Toronto’s Ken Baumgartner on Dec. 23.
When pressed on whether or not he feels it was safe for Peluso to play under these circumstances, Lamoriello replied:
“I could not make that judgment,” Lamoriello said. “First of all, fights in the National Hockey League are not boxing fights… 90 per cent of the fights in the National Hockey League, no one even lands a punch. Ninety per cent of the fights are almost wrestling matches.”
Another lawyer representing Peluso, Shawn Stuckey, also maintains that Peluso was pressured back into action by the Devils, even when it was clear that he was in no condition to be playing.
“Mike got a call from his coach who said that the Maple Leafs had guys like linebackers and he needed Mike to protect his teammates, and that’s the reason Mike went back to play so soon,” Stuckey said in a March 15 interview with TSN.“The team pressured him to go back. When Mike got back to New Jersey from Quebec, his girlfriend had to drive him to the rink because he couldn’t remember the way. He still had concussion symptoms. To say Mike or any other player in that situation makes a decision to go back on the ice after a concussion is unconscionable. Asking a concussed player if he’s okay is like asking a drunk driver if they are okay to drive. It’s remarkable that in 2016, Lamoriello is still willing to say something like, ‘He said he was okay to play.’ ”
Lamoriello, who left the Leafs organization earlier this month and has since been hired as president of hockey operations for the New York Islanders, has neglected to comment on these statements since becoming public.