Flyers coaches allege verbally demeaning encounter with John Tortorella, changing complaint against Comcast Spectacor
The two longtime Philadelphia Flyers athletic coaches, who filed a team ownership lawsuit in April after receiving similar medical diagnoses that they allege unknowingly exposed them to cancer-causing carcinogens at the Flyers training facility, changed their complaint Tuesday, to accuse Comcast Spectacor of intentionally punishing one of them, including by verbally abusing head coach John Tortorella, according to court documents obtained through Cross wide.
In the amended lawsuit, attorneys for Jim McCrossin, 64, and Sal Raffa, 43, allege that since July, Comcast Spectacor and co-defendant FPS Rink “Directed, Directed, Influenced and/or Persuaded Philadelphia Flyers LP (this is the team’s hockey arm of operations)to prevent and/or limit McCrossin’s access to players and/or his role in the treatment of players.”
They further claim that in August Comcast and FPS “Ordered, instructed, influenced and/or persuaded Philadelphia Flyers LP to remove McCrossin from his position as Head Athletic Trainer and promote him to the position of Senior Advisor.“Furthermore, it is claimed that the move was made as “a penalty for having filed a lawsuit in court seeking redress for his cancer caused by the same defendants.”
In addition, the complaint alleges that after McCrossin was removed from his position, Comcast and FPS “Philadelphia Flyers LP instructed, instructed, influenced and/or persuaded to subject McCrossin to repeated degrading and abusive behavior of the new head coach (Tortorella) and to force him out of his office at short notice, and/or… Comcast and FPS were aware of these actions. “
Finally, the complaint alleges that Comcast and FPS “Philadelphia Flyers LP directed, directed, influenced and/or persuaded to deliver a first amendment to McCrossin’s employment contract that included a “general release from claims” to induce and dissuade McCrossin from seeking legal remedies in court.”
The general gist of these allegations is that the actions of Comcast, FPS, and the Flyers were not only premeditated, but also retaliatory against McCrossin for filing a lawsuit against the company for negligence that led to his cancer diagnosis.
That’s an important nuance to note since this was filed as a personal injury claim rather than a labor complaint, which Comcast would prefer since it would submit the case to arbitration rather than a possible jury trial. The cable giant filed an objection in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas on Sept. 21 and said so.
Several attempts to reach Kline & Specter’s attorneys for McCrossin and Raffa were unsuccessful prior to publication.
When asked for comment, a Flyers spokesman made the following statement:
“Jimmy McCrossin has been a valued member of the Flyers organization for more than two decades, and we hope he remains part of the Flyers family in this new role as Senior Advisor to the Hockey Operations management team. As we’ve discussed publicly many times, the Flyers organization has made significant investments in a new, comprehensive athlete health and wellness program this offseason after suffering unprecedented injuries in recent years. The organization is committed to investing all necessary resources to provide our players with the best possible and comprehensive care.”
Included in evidence in the amended complaint is a copy of the September 1 general claims release referenced above, in which Comcast requested McCrossin’s signature, which could prevent it from further suing the company.
After the initial publication of this story, the Flyers shared two pieces of additional information. The first is that the general indemnification of claims expressly states the following exclusion:
“Notwithstanding any other provisionsversion of this version are the following Not excluded by this general indemnification: (a) Claims asserted in the pending lawsuit, Jacob M McCrossin et al. v. Comcast Holdings Corporation, et al.Case No. 220400997 (Phila. Court of Joint pleas in law filed April 12, 2022) (the “Lawsuit”); (b) Claims as to the validity of these General release; (c) claims by either party to enforce this General release; and (d) claims that are not legally dispensable.”
Additionally, Cross wide was shown an email from Fletcher to McCrossin, which read in part:
“Please read [the employment agreement] carefully with your attorneys, particularly the scope of the indemnity, which is designed to ensure it does not affect any of the claims in your lawsuit (but you should make sure they agree before you sign).
According to multiple sources, McCrossin did not sign the agreement. A source said it was done at the behest of his attorneys, noting that while the organization clearly made an exception to the original lawsuit, it essentially absolved the organization from any further action because McCrossin claimed he had been since the Signing of the lawsuit in April has been dealt with by the organization (as described above) as well as any perceived abuse during his remaining tenure with the organization and he has been advised not to sign it.
The new working document was presented to McCrossin after a meeting with Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher five days earlier.
An email from Fletcher to McCrossin dated August 26 and McCrossin’s reply dated August 30 are also attached as evidence:
In Fletcher’s email, he quoted the “Occurrence, recurrence and persistence of numerous player injuries‘ as reason for a necessary change in McCrossin’s position. However, it should be noted that certified athletic trainers such as McCrossin and Raffa do not “train” players. That’s in the hands of the strength and conditioning team.
Athletic trainers monitor and treat injuries after they have occurred.
Additionally, by law and NHL protocol, athletic coaches are not permitted to release or release athletes to return to the sport. Only an orthopedist or family doctor can do that. According to two sources, the Flyers have recently had their orthopedic chief, Dr. Brian Sennett, separated. Family doctor Gary Dorshimer remains affiliated with the club.
In the email, Fletcher also called McCrossin’s title change a “housing” due to his cancer treatments taking place at the Cleveland Clinic.
In McCrossin’s email, he refers to the allegation that Tortorella berated him for taking three players to their last doctor’s visit.
According to a source familiar with Tortorella and McCrossin’s interactions, the two only met twice, once on one of Tortorella’s first days as a coach, in which he allegedly chewed on McCrossin because of the way he treated players and told him he didn’t want McCrossin on his staff.
However, the second meeting between Tortorella and McCrossin was reportedly the one referenced in the email. With Raffa himself having a doctor’s appointment, Fletcher reportedly asked McCrossin to accompany three players – Sean Couturier, Patrick Brown and Joel Farabee – on a visit to the orthopedist. Upon his return, Tortorella reportedly again berated and belittled McCrossin for being around the players, having earlier specifically told him to stay away. According to the source, Tortorella was unaware that Fletcher signed McCrossin’s participation with the players that day.
Both McCrossin, who joined the Flyers in 2000, and Raffa (2004) remain with the team.
Both were diagnosed with almost identical and incurable blood diseases and/or cancer in the spring and summer of 2021, just a few months apart.
McCrossin developed the rare diseases essential thrombocythemia, myeloproliferative neoplasia and the deadly blood cancer myelofibrosis.
Raffa developed thrombocythemia, which is incurable and proliferative to other blood diseases such as cancer or stroke.
After thorough research, the pair allege that contracting these diseases was the result of overexposure to cancer-causing carcinogens released by Zambonis used to cut and clean the ice surface at the Flyers’ practice facility, and the result of the practice room, where they have worked for the past two decades and come across the Zamboni room, which may have ingested these cancer-causing chemicals on a large scale due to inadequate ventilation or through a shared drainage system.
Kline & Specter filed the original lawsuit on behalf of McCrossin, Raffa and the consortium, their wives, in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia in April.
You can read more about the original complaint and how McCrossin and Raffa claim to have contracted their diseases.