Sports Hockey

Legal reps want deposition from Maple Leafs boss Shanahan

By Lance Hornby, Toronto Sun

Maple Leafs president and ex-NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan insists he is not opposed to giving a deposition, as requested by the legal team representing former NHL players in a concussion lawsuit. (CRAIG ROBERTSON/TORONTO SUN)

Maple Leafs president and ex-NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan insists he is not opposed to giving a deposition, as requested by the legal team representing former NHL players in a concussion lawsuit. (CRAIG ROBERTSON/TORONTO SUN)

Brendan Shanahan put a few players on the spot in his time as the league’s head of discipline.

Now the legal team representing former NHL players in the concussion lawsuit would like to do the same with him. TSN reported Friday morning that court documents show attempts to get Shanahan, now president of the Maple Leafs, to come to a Minnesota court for a deposition have been so far refused. And the office of the plaintiffs co-lead counsel told Postmedia Network in an e-mail that Shanahan should speak.

“As a Hall of Fame player and as the former senior vice president of player safety and operations, Brendan Shanahan has first-hand knowledge of player head injuries, Mr. Shanahan understands the relationship between the content and enforcement of playing rules and concussions. He can speak to the NHL’s understanding of that relationship.

“Deposing Mr. Shanahan will help retired players learn the full extent of what the NHL knew about the frequency and severity of concussions, when the NHL knew those things, and what the NHL told, or did not tell, the players about the longterm risks of head injuries.”

It’s possible a subpoena could be issued to Shanahan at a later date by a U.S. Federal Court Judge through the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General.

Shanahan responded late Friday.

“I was never opposed to giving a deposition,” he said. “My response is that I was happy to co-operate and I provided upcoming dates that hopefully work for both sides. My understanding is that is in the process of being scheduled.”

The NHL, which has been resisting attempts to have commissioner Gary Bettman deposed at this stage of the dispute, says Shanahan is making his own decisions in the matter. But deputy commissioner Bill Daly told Postmedia Network that “proper legal process and scheduling” had to be taken into consideration with Shanahan.

Shanahan has been travelling, just hired Mike Babcock as head coach and is busy filling other roles in the organization.

CEO SEARCH TIES LEIWEKE TO T.O.

Few believed Tim Leiweke last summer when he said he wasn’t in a rush to leave for his post as MLSE CEO to start his own sports and entertainment business.

But he remained to helm some major projects and now will stay on a little longer as the company changes its search parameters for his replacement. In an rare ‘update’ issued by MLSE chairman Larry Tanenbaum late Friday, the company said “in light of its expanding breadth of sports leadership talent, MLSE is now focusing its CEO search on appointing a seasoned business executive to lead the organization forward”.

“The Board of Directors agreed to focus our CEO search on the appointment of a strategic business leader able to enhance MLSE’s unique collection of world-class assets,” added Tanenbaum.

Since arriving in April of 2013, the American-born Leiweke was said to be discouraged about working amid frequent in-fighting between majority corporate owners Rogers and Bell.

“It’s a very positive time to be at the company,” Leiweke commented Friday. “I’m happy to be here as long as I’m needed while the organization works to find the right leader to carry the momentum forward.”

NEW START FOR HORTON?

Forward Nathan Horton turned 30 on Friday, a Leaf in name only after his career-threatening back injury led to him becoming a convenient salary cap move near the trade deadline last season.

“I’m doing all right, I’m living my life,” Horton told ESPN. “I have my good days and some okay days.”

He’s not ruled out a comeback.

“Eventually (the pain) is going to go away ... I hope. I’m healthy and I’m happy. It’s obviously tough because I want to play. It’s only my 30th birthday, so I know I’m still young. Life gives your curveballs and I’m just trying to be positive. That’s pretty much all I can do.”

In obtaining Horton for expensive bust David Clarkson, the Leafs can possibly use Horton’s inactive $5.3 million US annual salary for cap relief while he’s on long-term IR, possibly to eat some coin if they can find takers for Dion Phaneuf and Phil Kessel in a trade, That would not last the length of either Leafs regular’s contract, but it would solve the problem, short-term, if there is no desire to have one or both return.

LOOSE LEAFS

Donny Meehan, whose Newport Sports agency represents both Phaneuf and Kessel, says both clients have been in contact with him about last week’s Babcock hiring, but described it as the same kind of chatter going on throughout the league about the big signing ... Babcock spent the last few days in organizational meetings in Toronto. But there was no announcement yet regarding rumours of Jim Hiller and Andrew Brewer joining him from the Red Wings organization as assistant coaches. Babcock knows many qualified coaches from his travels and luring them here should be easy ... One rumour is that Babcock asked for a 10-year deal with the Leafs and settled on eight ... Peter DeBoer’s arrival in San Jose as new coach could mean that old Kitchener pal Steve Spott comes along as assistant after being let go in Toronto ... The first chance Babcock will get to see any Leafs in action will be the prospects camp, July 6-12, after the 2015 draft class is added ... Leaf scouts will be descending on downtown Buffalo next week for the NHL scouting combine ... Would the Leafs be interested in Anaheim’s surprising Matt Beleskey? Though due a raise after $1.4 million this year, the pending UFA would be the kind of playoff-experienced winger who could make a difference in a hurry ... It was 23 years ago Friday that coach Pat Burns came to the Leafs from the Habs and 22 since his team lost Game 7 to the Kings.

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