Tampa Bay Lightning LW Stephane Veilleux filing grievance against team over shoulder
Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Stephane Veilleux, with the help of the NHL Players Association, will file a grievance today against the Lightning because of a dispute over Veilleux's right-shoulder injury that requires surgery for which Tampa Bay is refusing to pay, Veilleux's agent Allan Walsh said.
"It isn't one of the worst examples, it is the worst example of anything I have ever seen in my career in regards to how an organization is treating a player," Walsh said Tuesday, adding that the grievance will include a request for a quickly scheduled hearing.
Walsh said the Lightning agrees Veilleux needs surgery to repair a torn labrum. What the team questions, he said, is that the injury is hockey-related. Walsh said Veilleux was declared healthy by Lightning doctors before the season and that the injury, a cyst, a nerve impingement and perhaps a labrum tear, was detected the day after the season when players were given exit fitness exams.
Walsh said assistant general manager Tom Kurvers told him Tampa Bay's doctors could not determine when or how the injury occurred. Walsh said Kurvers told him Veilleux could have been hurt when he returned some serves from Andy Roddick during Jim Courier's charity event at the St. Pete Times Forum in March. Walsh said Kurvers also said perhaps Veilleux was hurt playing ping-pong in the team's Times Forum workout room.
Walsh said even if the injury occured in either of those ways (something he disputes), since he said the team encouraged Veilleux to play in the charity event and team trainers encouraged players to play ping-pong as a way to warm up and stay loose, it would fall under the category of hockey-related injuries. It should be noted, however, that Veilleux also pushed to get on the court with Roddick.
Said Kurvers in a statement released by the team: "Per club policy, we are not inclined to discuss specifics with any player's injury, its treatment or circumstances surrounding the injury publicly. Stephane is a valued member of the Lightning organization and we fully intend on providing any necessary medical care as dictated by the collective bargaining agreement."
The Players Association was not immediately available for comment. Veilleux directed all inquiries to Walsh.
Veilleux, 28, was signed to a one-year deal as a free agent last summmer. He had three goals, nine points and 48 penalty minutes in 77 games, and as far as can be ascertained never was treated for a shoulder problem. He is scheuled to be a restricted free agent this summer.
Walsh said Veilleux will have the surgery Wednesday at the Cleveland Clinic, performed by orthopedic surgeon Anthony Miniaci. Walsh said he believes payment for the surgery will be defered 60 to 90 days while the matter is decided, though he said Veilleux will guarantee the cost to the hospital.
"He needs shoulder surgery," Walsh said. "Their doctors agree. The second-opinion doctors agree. Everyone is in agreement he needs shoulder surgery. We dont know whether the Lightning is going to re-sign him as a free agent or not, but he's on the clock because he has to be ready for the start of training camp whether it's in Tampa or somewhere else. By not agreeing to pay for the surgery, they are compromising his career."