Monday's NHL: Flyers trainers sue team, claim Zamboni chemicals caused cancer

Giana Han
Philadelphia Inquirer

Flyers director of medical services Jim McCrossin and assistant athletic trainer Sal Raffa are suing Flyers ownership after they received diagnoses of rare medical conditions they allege come from exposure to chemicals used in the Zambonis at the Flyers Training Center in Voorhees.

In their lawsuit, McCrossin and Raffa allege that the Zambonis at the rink used “gasoline and/or fuel containing and/or producing carcinogens.” According to their research, there are other comparable machines available that do not require gasoline or fuel with carcinogens.

Former boxer Joe Frazier rides a zamboni at an NHL hockey game between the Philadelphia Flyers and the New Jersey Devils in Philadelphia in 2009.

The Zambonis idle in the Zamboni room, which they state lacks appropriate ventilation, and the training room is in close proximity to it, exposing McCrossin and Raffa to the carcinogens, according to the complaint.

McCrossin, who has worked at the facility since 2000, developed “rare medical conditions of essential thrombocythemia, myeloproliferative neoplasm, and most recently, myelofibrosis (blood cancer), which is incurable.” Raffa, who has worked there since 2004, developed a “rare medical condition of essential thrombocythemia, which is incurable.”

Essential thrombocythemia is a disorder that causes the bone marrow to produce a higher-than-normal platelet count, increasing the risk of blood clots.

McCrossin and Raffa remained on staff for the 2021-22 season and continue to be Flyers employees.

“The safety of our employees and guests at the Flyers Training Center and all of our facilities is always a top priority for us,” the Flyers said in a statement. “We have looked into the allegations made by Jim McCrossin and Sal Raffa over the course of several months, and, based on that, believe that their claims have no merit. Beyond that, we cannot comment further given that this matter is in litigation.”

The 27-page complaint was filed by the law firm Kline & Specter on behalf of McCrossin and Raffa, as well as their wives Robyn McCrossin and Holly Raffa, on April 12. It names 11 defendants.

The defendants include Flyers ownership Comcast Holdings Corporation; Comcast Spectacor Holding Company, LLC; Comcast Spectacor, LLC; and Comcast Spectacor Ventures, LLC. It also includes the rinks, Flyers Skate Zone LP; FPS, LLC; FPS, LP; FPS Rink, LLC; FPS Rink, LP as well as the companies FPS Urban Renewal, Inc. and companies “who owned and/or controlled of the property at issue, engaged in emitting, creating, using, handling, transporting, storing, transferring, dispensing, distributing, and/or permitting exposure to benzene, and/or other carcinogens at the property at issue.”

The complaint states that the defendants knew the Zambonis required proper ventilation because the information was was included in operations manuals, safety information and/or maintenance information. They allege the defendants knew the Zambonis were emitting dangerous chemicals and that they knew or should have known exposure to these chemicals and fumes could lead to health problems for Jim McCrossin and Sal Raffa.

They claim the defendants’ “acts and omissions” are a factual and proximate cause of “severe, permanent, and grievous personal injuries and damages” for McCrossin and Raffa, which include diagnoses, need for treatment, physical pain and suffering, and loss of income.

“Jimmy McCrossin and Sal Raffa are beloved figures in Philadelphia sports and it is our honor to represent them,” attorneys Tom Kline, Jim Waldenberger, and Elia Robertson from Kline & Specter said in a statement. “Their cancer diagnoses are tragic and their exposure to toxic compounds in the workplace was unnecessary and preventable. We look forward to seeking justice for them in this very important case.”

Capitals 3, Avalanche 2

Denver — Marcus Johansson scored the go-ahead goal with 9:14 remaining, Ilya Samsonov stopped 24 shots and the playoff-bound Washington Capitals snapped the Colorado Avalanche’s nine-game winning streak with a 3-2 victory Monday night.

Alex Ovechkin and Garnet Hathaway also added goals for a Washington team that clinched an Eastern Conference playoff spot a night earlier, courtesy of Toronto beating the New York Islanders. The Capitals have qualified for the postseason in eight straight seasons. It’s the second-longest active streak behind Pittsburgh (16).

Valeri Nichushkin and Artturi Lehkonen scored for the Avalanche, who lead the NHL with 116 points. They’re two shy of matching the team mark set by the 2000-01 Colorado squad that won the Stanley Cup. Darcy Kuemper finished with 24 saves.

Flames 5, Blackhawks 2

Chicago — Johnny Gaudreau, Dillon Dube and Blake Coleman scored in the first period, and Calgary beat Chicago.

Jacob Markstrom made 22 saves as playoff-bound Calgary won for the seventh time in eight games. Gaudreau and Oliver Kylington tacked on long empty-netters for the Pacific Division leaders in the final 1:32.

Chicago lost for the 10th time in 11 games. Tyler Johnson and Alec Regula scored, and Kevin Lankinen made 30 stops.

Kraken 4, Senators 2

Seattle — Matty Beniers (Michigan) scored in his second straight game to become the third NHL rookie this season to record a point in his first three contests and Seattle beat Ottawa.

Daniel Sprong, Victor Rask, and Jordan McCann also scored for Seattle. McCann’s empty-netter with 1:11 left sealed Seattle’s second straight victory.

Brady Tkachuk and Nick Holden scored for Ottawa. The goals came two minutes apart early in the second period.

Seattle’s Chris Driedger made 12 saves. Anton Forsberg had 25 saves for the Senators.

Hurricanes 5, Coyotes 3

Glendale, Ariz. — Sebastian Aho scored his 36th goal midway through the third period and Carolina snapped a two-game skid with a victory over Arizona.

Nino Niederreiter, Max Domi, Vincent Trocheck and Jesper Fast also scored for the Hurricanes, who weathered an Arizona comeback try and strengthened their hold on first place in the Metropolitan Division.

Nick Ritchie, Loui Eriksson and Alex Galchenyuk scored in the second period for the Coyotes. Arizona trailed 3-0 and 4-1 before closing within 4-3 when Eriksson and Galchenyuk scored in the final four minutes of the period.

Antti Raanti had 23 saves for the Hurricanes and Karel Vejmelka had 46 for the Coyotes.

Devils 3, Golden Knights 2

Las Vegas — Nathan Bastian had a goal and an assist, and New Jersey beat Vegas for its 13th win in the last 40 games.

The Golden Knights blew their chance to gain ground on the Los Angeles Kings in the Pacific Division, and their playoff hopes lessened severely with just five games left to play. Vegas is three points back of Los Angeles in the division and four points back of Dallas and Nashville for a wild-card berth.

Andreas Johnsson and Jesper Boqvist also scored for New Jersey. Andrew Hammond made 42 saves.

Keegan Kolesar and Chandler Stephenson scored for Vegas and Robin Lehner stopped 25 shots.

Canucks 6, Stars 2

Vancouver, British Columbia — Elias Pettersson had two goals and an assist and the Vancouver Canucks extended their winning streak to six games with a 6-2 win over the Dallas Stars on Monday night.

Brock Boeser and Jason Dickinson each had a goal and two assists for the Canucks. Vasily Podkolzin and Conor Garland also scored. Oliver Ekman-Larsson had two assists.

Roope Hintz had two goals for Dallas, including a short-handed score in the second period.

Thatcher Demko stopped 28 of 30 shots for Vancouver, which swept the three-game season series against Dallas.

Stars goalie Jake Oettinger stopped 15 of 19 shots before being pulled midway through the second period. Scott Wedgewood had 10 saves in relief.