Court: Workers' comp covers hockey-fight injury
NORFOLK, Va. -- A former minor-league hockey player who injured his shoulder in a fight he claimed his coach told him to start is entitled to workers' compensation, a Virginia appeals court ruled.
The Virginia Court of Appeals upheld a Virginia Workers' Compensation Commission finding that "fighting is an integral part of the game of hockey" and that Ty A. Jones' injury arose in the course of his employment as an "enforcer."
Jones' former team, the Norfolk Admirals, had argued that the fight amounted to willful misconduct and that he was not entitled to workers' compensation.
L. Steven Emmert, a leading Virginia appellate attorney and hockey fan with no connection to the case, suggested the finding Tuesday was so obvious that it does not amount to much as a legal precedent.
"This court finds that fighting is an integral part of hockey," Emmert said. "Thirty million Canadians could have told you that." But he added: "Maybe clubs will be a little more careful about sending a goon -- an enforcer -- out to thunk somebody in the head."
Jones, a right-wing power forward with the Admirals, instigated a fight with an opposing player during a game in 2002. Jones said the coach told him to "go get" the player.
Jones got hurt, and an orthopedic surgeon later put six screws in his right shoulder. The athlete wore a sling for almost six months.
In 2004, Jones was awarded workers' compensation for the seven months he underwent rehabilitation. The ruling did not give a dollar amount.
Jones played for the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks in the 1998-99 season and, after leaving the Admirals, for the Florida Panthers in 2003-04. A Panthers spokesman did not immediately return a call inquiring about Jones' whereabouts.
Admirals spokesman Alan May declined to comment. The coach at the time of Jones' injury, Trent Yawney, now coaches the Blackhawks.
"No Blackhawk coach would ever intentionally send a player out to fight with someone," said Blackhawks spokesman Jim DeMaria.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press