Myles Stoesz didn’t collect many points during his time with the Chilliwack Bruins of the Western Hockey League. He had three goals and five points in 40 games during the 2006-07 season, and that was OK. He wasn’t on the team for offence. He was there for toughness and protection.
Stoesz racked up 135 penalty minutes while keeping stars like Oscar Moller, Mark Santorelli and Josh Aspenlind safe.
In three seasons prior to that (2003 to 2006), he accumulated an astounding 631 penalty minutes in just 166 games with the Spokane Chiefs.
In a different era for hockey, the Manitoba product was an ‘enforcer,’ filling a role that has slowly faded into extinction as fighting has faded from the game.
Now 34 years old, Stoesz claims that role has left him suffering from memory loss, headaches and migraines.
Stoesz is one of four former Canadian Hockey League players who provided sworn affidavits connected to a possible class-action lawsuit filed against the WHL, Canadian Hockey League, and Hockey Canada in 2019. The affidavits were filed May 7.
“I think the CHL needs to be held accountable to the current and former players for these injuries,” Stoesz wrote in his. “I want the CHL to acknowledge that what we had to do to play in the CHL as teenagers was not acceptable. Looking back at my career in the CHL, I feel like I lost part of my youth. My time in Spokane was a daze of fights. I’m scared about my future because I took repeated blows to my head. I’m in my early 30s and I suffer from headaches and migraines and my right hand is disfigured with a mallet finger from punching.”
Stoesz claims that during his time in Spokane he started as a “happy and easygoing kid” and turned into “this rage-filled fighter.”
When he was 16 years old, he says Spokane had him working with an unnamed “NHL tough guy,” taking boxing lessons at a local gym to learn “the craft of fighting.” Stoesz tallied up his WHL fights on hockeyfights.com, calculating that he dropped the mitts 88 times during his WHL days. He says that doesn’t include preseason, practice and training camp fisticuffs.
“I feel sick to my stomach to see my younger self being punched in the face, pushed on the ice or seeing myself doing that to another player,” Stoesz wrote. “In the video you can see that we drop our gloves, take off our helmets and then start pounding our fists into each other in the head. The referees stay back and watch us take multiple punches at each other until we both fall onto the ice. Only then do they break up the fight.
“I recall being told I had a concussion at least twice, and now that I know the symptoms of a concussion, I know I had many more. I was never told to get medical attention for my hits to the head or other injuries. My recovery time was when I was sitting in the penalty box icing my fists.”
The defendants have yet to file a response and a judge will need to determine whether the lawsuit can move forward as a class action.