The night Tim Bozon fell seriously ill with meningitis, he was in the middle of a business trip. In fact, earlier in the evening, he played and scored his 33rd goal of the season for the Kootenay Ice in its 4-2 win over the Saskatoon Blades.
That was Feb. 28. Just a little more than four weeks after a life-and-death scare that had him in a medically induced coma, Bozon is slowly recovering, but his family facesthe possibility of having to absorb $100,000 in medical bills for the care he received in Saskatoon and further rehabilitation he requires to get his strength back.
And here’s where everything gets a little murky. Western League commissioner Rob Robison told thn.com that, “It’s our objective and our plan right now to ensure that all the costs are covered.” Which is all well and good, but it’s far from an iron-clad guarantee that someone aside from the Bozon family will be stuck paying these bills.
The league has set up a trust fund and is encouraging fans to donate to it in order to help. Judge for yourself on the optics of that one. All I know is that the day after this story broke, Hockey Canada put a cattle call out to recruit volunteers for the 2015 World Junior Championship, which is slated for Montreal and Toronto and is expected to turn a profit of between $20 million and $30 million, of which the Canadian Hockey League will receive 35 percent. If the tournament reaches even the conservative objective of $22 million, that means the CHL will receive $7.7 million. Guaranteeing $100,000 for a player who fell ill while representing his team doesn't seem like it would be that onerous, does it?
It’s one thing to declare your “objective” not to saddle the Bozon family with any debt, but it’s another to actually guarantee that won’t happen. The WHL, which is currently receiving and paying Bozon's medical bills, and the CHL should do the right thing immediately and put the Bozon family’s mind at ease on this.
What’s keeping them from doing that? Well, a lot of things, not the least of which is an insurance dispute. You see, Bozon was born in France and holds passports for both France and the United States. If he had been a Canadian citizen, none of this would have been an issue because whatever province covered his health insurance would have paid the costs in full. When Bozon signed with the Kamloops Blazers in 2011, the team took out medical and dental insurance that went with him when he was traded to the Ice earlier this season. But as it turns out, that insurance policy has limits and Bozon’s hefty medical bills far exceeded them.
(If nothing else, this should be a cautionary tale for any European player coming to the CHL. These players should know that if they suffer a catastrophic illness away from the rink while they’re playing junior hockey in North America, there’s a chance they could be stuck with a six-figure medical bill.)
The insurance broker for Hockey Canada, meanwhile, has argued that Bozon’s illness is not a work-related injury, despite the fact that meningitis is a bacterial infection that can incubate by living in close quarters, such as with other members of a hockey team on a road trip. The average incubation period for the disease is four days – the Ice left for its road trip Feb. 24 and Bozon began feeling ill the night of Feb. 28 – so it’s very possible he contracted the illness on that road trip. (The team also played Feb. 22 in Spokane, leaving Feb. 21 and returning Feb. 23.)
Tim Bozon is the son of Philippe Bozon, who played two years in the NHL for the St. Louis Blues in the early 1990s. He made $470,000 in the NHL, which doesn’t include the money he made as a professional in France, Germany and Switzerland before and after his NHL career. Tim, meanwhile, signed a three-year contract with the Montreal Canadiens that paid him a signing bonus of $92,500 this season and is scheduled to pay him the same amount next season and $70,000 in 2015-16.
So we’re talking about a family that is likely fairly well off, but certainly not NHL-level wealthy. Chances are it will not be saddled with a debt just because their son got sick, but it would be nice for the Bozons to know the league their son plays in has their back. Guaranteed.