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Lightning's Veilleux to file grievance against team over surgery payment

The team says the shoulder problem of wing Stephane Veilleux, right, discovered after the season ended, isn’t hockey-related.

DIRK SHADD | Times

The team says the shoulder problem of wing Stephane Veilleux, right, discovered after the season ended, isn’t hockey-related.

The NHL Players Association is poised to file a grievance for Stephane Veilleux against the Lightning for refusing to pay for the left wing's shoulder surgery.

Agent Allan Walsh originally said the grievance would be filed Tuesday but then said it would be filed between today and Friday.

"The (union) wants the player to review certain portions of it," Walsh said. "It's not going to change anything. … This is the worst example of anything I have ever seen in my career in regards to how an organization is treating a player."

Said union spokesman Jonathan Weatherdon: "We are still reviewing the matter."

The dispute centers around a cyst, nerve impingement and possibly a torn labrum in Veilleux's right shoulder, scheduled to be repaired today by orthopedist Anthony Miniaci at the Cleveland Clinic.

There is no dispute over whether Veilleux needs the procedure, which Walsh said requires three to four months of rehabilitation. The Lightning is questioning whether the injury is hockey-related, the bar set by the collective bargaining agreement to determine if the team must pay.

Veilleux, 28, who played 77 of 82 games in the regular season, with three goals, nine points and 48 penalty minutes, never was treated for a shoulder injury, as far as can be determined. According to the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, the impingement of the suprascapular nerve is more consistent with athletes who engage in repetitive overhead activities such as throwing a baseball, serving a volleyball or swimming.

But Walsh said the injury clearly is hockey-related because his client was deemed healthy before the season and the injury was discovered by Tampa Bay medical director Ira Guttentag during a physical the day after the regular season ended.

Walsh said Lightning assistant general manager Tom Kurvers told him Tampa Bay's doctors could not determine how the injury occurred.

Walsh said Kurvers told him Veilleux could have been hurt returning serves from tennis pro Andy Roddick during a charity event in March at the St. Pete Times Forum, or by playing pingpong in the team's workout room.

Even if the injury occurred in those ways, which Walsh disputes, it still is hockey-related, he said, because "they are Lightning activities, either authorized or arranged by, and fall into hockey-related activities under the (collective bargaining agreement) anyway."

Kurvers said in a statement: "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."

Walsh said the approximate $15,000 cost of Veilleux's surgery likely will be deferred 60 to 90 days while the matter is resolved, though Veilleux will have to guarantee the hospital payment.

Asked if the dispute could be resolved before the grievance is filed, Walsh said, "You're asking the wrong person" and added, "I haven't heard from the Lightning all day."

Lightning's Veilleux to file grievance against team over surgery payment 05/11/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 11, 2010 11:37pm]
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