Canadian Underwriter

Hockey Fight in Canada—insuring our national sport

November 24, 2017   by David Gambrill, Editor-in-Chief

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When William Carrier of the Vegas Golden Knights dropped the gloves to fight Michael Liambus of the Anaheim Ducks last Wednesday, posted footage of the battle, asked viewers to rate the fight, and logged the event as the 70th fight of this young NHL hockey season.

Vegas Golden Knights left winger William Carrier (28) and Anaheim Ducks left winger Mike Liambas (51) fight in the first period of an NHL hockey game in Anaheim, Calif., Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

The Carrier-Liambus tilt was the 13th fight in the NHL last week alone.

Hockey fights are so ubiquitous that fans routinely describe them as “part of the game.” But when does the garden variety fighting in our national sport cross the line and become an assault, and therefore the subject of an insurance claim for compensation?

Lawyers Patrick Brennan and Shannon Mulholland of Shillingtons LLP remind insurance professionals about the rules of the game when it comes to underwriting policies and adjusting insurance claims related to hockey fights in Canada.

“The courts have made clear that bodily contact is an inherent risk that is assumed by participants in the game of hockey,” Brennan and Mulholland told Canadian Underwriter, but “conduct that could be described as malicious, intentionally injurious or a deliberate unilateral attack will likely attract liability.”

Traditionally, the courts have looked at several factors to determine the difference between the expectations of hockey combatants, and the kind of fight that would attract a lawsuit. For example, was there a previous incident between the two players before the fight? Would the actions of the aggressor at the time lead a person to conclude there was an intention to cause injury? What degree of force was necessary to cause the injury?

In addition, courts would look at the nature of the league and the game. Was it a non-contact game, or was contact forbidden in the rules? Was it a recreational or pick-up league, or a more competitive, organized league?  What were the expectations of the participants going into the game?

Brennan and Mulholland encourage clients to review policies with their brokers to see if insurance covers injuries arising from hockey fights. “Typically, if a player steps outside the bounds of the game and is sued for causing injury to another player, [the aggressor’s] homeowner’s insurance policy responds,” they say. “If the conduct of the [aggressor] was so egregious so as to attract criminal liability, the [aggressor] may find insurance coverage denied.”

Insurance underwriters and adjusters should be aware of efforts by hockey associations, officials, and property (rink) owners to mitigate the risk of hockey violence. Among the efforts:

  • The ability to collect any and all evidence from a particular gaming event should an incident occur, including note pads for collecting witness contact information, video surveillance preservation if available, and the names of any paramedics, staff, or other parties that may arrive after the incident;
  • Ensuring proper insurance for the activities undertaken within a venue is purchased with any additional insureds listed on the policy;
  • Mandating waivers (clearly drafted and unambiguous) and rule summaries are signed by all participants at the beginning of the season;
  • Requiring certain equipment and/or protective devices are worn by participants prior to participation; and
  • An agreement between the building owners/operators and the league and game conveners laying out timing, indemnities, insurance, and scope of duties and responsibilities of the parties in the context of the game.

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3 Comments » for Hockey Fight in Canada—insuring our national sport
  1. Robert D. Penfield says:

    Why the Ducks brought in Liambus is beyond me, the guy is a goon, has been thrown out of two minor leagues, doesn’t contribute anything to the team, which has enough trouble scoring goals and playing defense.
    Better referring would also help, the quality has been going down in the last few years.
    I understand that they will not see everything. but when they are right there and don’t make an obvious call, then ????????

  2. Robert D. Penfield says:

    see above.

  3. Cole Warren says:

    I’ve been a hockey fan forever. Being from Canada growing up watching Hockey Night In Canada every weekend has been a ritual that most Canadians would say they love doing. Yes. I believe that fighting in hockey is as natural as fish to water. I personally enjoy watching a good tilt between two players who have something to prove. Whether it be to protect the star players or just to send a message to opposing teams that shananigans on the won’t be tolerated and there will be retribution that merely calling a two minute penalty won’t do. To the bleeding heart fans that think fighting in hockey should be abolished should perhaps take up another sport like say….table tennis or the like. I understand the problem with concussions but,the players do know the risk when they lace’em up. That doesn’t mean that you can intentionally go out to mame eachother but, keeping it clean and fair goes a long way leaving the judge and jury duty to one’s wearing the stripes…..the refs!

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