The National Hockey League has underpaid the widows of some deceased players and employees, according to a decision by Ontario Superior Court Justice Paul Perell.
The case calls into question the New York-based NHL Players Pension Plan's method of calculating the pre-retirement death benefit for players between 1952 and 1986 and for non-player employees between 1961 and 1994.
Members of the NHL Players' Association who filed the lawsuit argued that the pre-retirement death benefit should use a pension-based methodology rather than a contribution-based methodology. The difference in return, using one widowed member as an example, is $668,659 for the pension-based methodology vs. $214,300 for the contribution-based methodology.
NHL spokesman John Dellapina said in an e-mail that the NHL has no plans to appeal the decision.
It could not be immediately learned how much the ruling could cost the pension plan.
Paul Kelly, NHLPA executive director, declined an interview for the story, according to spokesman Andrew Wolfe. But in a written statement, Mr. Kelly said: “The NHLPA is pleased with the Ontario Superior Court's recent decision to uphold the interpretation of the pre-retirement death benefit provisions of the NHL Players Pension Plan advanced by the NHLPA-appointed pension trustees.”
The plan was valued at US$155 million as of June 2005, the most recent number available in the Money Market Directory. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman could not be reached by press time. — Timothy Inklebarger