City Desk

D.C. Court of Appeals Rules Against Former Cap Player

Hey Washington Capitals fans, remember Joe Murphy? Me neither, although there’s plenty else to remember about the team during the limited time Murphy spent in Washington in the 1999-2000 and 2000-2001 seasons. Simply put, that was the last time the Caps were any good, putting up 102 and 96 points (respectively) and winning back-to-back Southeast Division titles–only to suffer humiliating first-round defeats to archrivals the Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs both years. Not that Murphy had much to do with the team’s success back in those well-faded "glory days": The aging right-winger–whom the Caps had picked up off of waivers in mid-February 1999 from the Boston Bruins–scored only 6 goals and 13 assists for a whopping total of 19 points in the 43 games he played with the club during those two seasons.

Less forgettable than the way he played, however, was the way he went out: In December of 2000, an injured Murphy accompanied the team to New York City for a match with the Rangers. After the game, he and some teammates went out for a team-sponsored dinner and according to court documents drank a lot of beer and vodka before moving on to a club and drinking more. At the end of the night, Murphy tried to convince a woman to get in his limo, only to get cracked across the head with a bottle by the woman’s male companion. Days later, Murphy was assigned to the team’s minor-league affiliate in Lowell, Mass.; Murphy refused to report to Lowell, was suspended by the team, and never played professional hockey again.

According to documents released today by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, Murphy eventually

filed for Workers’ Compensation benefits with the Department of Employment Services, asserting "that as a traveling employee, the injuries he sustained on December 7, 2000, arose out of and in the course of his employment." This claim was rejected by the ALJ, who found that "while...claimant was in New York for the sole purpose of traveling with his employer and...having dinner after the game was an activity related to his employment," his "venture to the lower east side to patronize a bar...after the dinner was not an activity incidental to his employment nor would it have been foreseeable by employer."

So, no Worker’s Comp for Below Average Joe–who then took his case to the D.C. Court of Appeals, arguing

that he was nonetheless entitled to recover under the Workers’ Compensation Act based upon a provision of his Collective Bargaining Agreement between the National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players’ Association. That provision reads:

A player under contract who is disabled and unable to perform his duties as a hockey player by reason of any injury sustained during the course of his employment as a hockey player, including travel with his team or on business requested by the club, shall be entitled to receive his remaining salary due in accordance [with] the term of his contract for the remaining stated term of his contract.

He interprets this provision to mean that if a player is injured during the course of his employment as a hockey player, including, without limitation, "travel with his team," the player is entitled to be awarded compensation for this contractual right by the Administrative Law Judge in the same proceeding that addresses his right to compensation under the District’s Workers’ Compensation Act.

The court didn't buy it.

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  • http://dcist.com/2007/11/09/caps_briefing_i_1.php Eli Resnick

    Great article!

    Tiny quibble: the Caps' farm team at the time was the Portland Pirates. They might have assigned Murphy to the Loch Monsters (were they called that, yet?), but it would have been a loan to an AHL team other than the one they used for player development.

    That's usually a symbol that a player doesn't figure imminently in the parent club's plans (c.f. Rochester Americans, Olaf Kolzig). It says the Caps didn't want Murphy interfering with the development of future stars Owen Fussey, Yogi Svejkovski, J.F. Fortin and Maxim Ouellet, so it gave Murphy some ammunition to claim that he was essentially fired because of his injury. Lucky for the team that the judge spent more time on the cause of the injury, eh?

    Also, I can't open the .pdf at the end. Mind checking the link?

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