Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Lawyer makes case for full disclosure

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HE picked up the torch and tried to lead the rally for change -- or, at least, full disclosure on NHL injuries -- but the cause fizzled.

Still, that doesn't mean Eric Macramalla won't keep arguing against the NHL's teams limiting their reports on injuries to "upper" and "lower" body.

"We're in an information age now," said Macramalla this week. "And the more time passes the more there will be an expectation for the disclosure of information."

Just over two years ago Macramalla -- a lawyer and partner at the national firm Gowlings, a legal analyst for TSN, creator of the Offside sports law blog and radio-show host based in Ottawa -- authored an online petition to get the NHL to re-think its approach to player-injury disclosure.

And, admittedly, it went nowhere.

"I had a small group of people who responded, all of whom passionately agreed that there should be full disclosure of NHL injuries," said Macramalla. "I maybe got 300-400 people but that's where it ended. But that doesn't mean we should just be so accepting."

In his petition Macramalla made his case for disclosure and offered a compromise -- that come playoff time NHL teams would be permitted to do the "upper" and "lower" body thing. His belief? Player welfare is critical, of course, but he also cited a lack of reliable evidence suggesting player injuries are targeted.

"When you're talking about things like this I always like to say, what's the legal case against it and the business case for or against it?" Macramalla said. "I think there's a pretty strong business case for full disclosure and I don't see a strong competitive case against disclosure. Players know if an opponent is hurt. There are some players that target others, but that has nothing to do with injuries, they just want to hurt them. We've seen that before many times. Matt Cooke (of the Pittsburgh Penguins) is a really good example of a player that targets you whether you are injured or not. Others are not going to do that.

"Players know when a player is hurt. This is not a secret. Players can tell when an opponent is favouring something. They're not dumb and there's lots of ways to figure out what the injuries are just by rolling back tape and watching again."

Macramalla also believes the explosion of the multi-million dollar industry that is fantasy sports could be the catalyst for change. But in a league where change moves at a glacial pace -- there is still a debate over visor use, as an example -- it's hard to imagine the NHL rewriting their amendment any time soon.

"But I speak to executives across all four sports and they all say the same thing: fantasy is a key part of their business model," insisted Macramalla. "And if they want to advance that in a meaningful way, part of that is full disclosure."

-- Tait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 23, 2013 C4

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