Just last night, it was reported that Jake Dotchin’s recent termination by the Tampa Bay Lightning for a material breach of contract due to poor conditioning had caught the attention of the NHLPA and players across the league. Many felt that if the Lightning did not have any hard line rules in place regarding fitness, Dotchin’s termination could open a can of worms about teams’ subjective use of a player’s conditioning to cut them from the roster and could become a major bargaining point. However, if the latest news on the situation proves true, the status quo has changed considerably and Tampa Bay will have a much easier time justifying their actions.
Speaking on Sportsnet 650 in Vancouver this evening, Sportsnet insider Elliotte Friedman relayed some new information on Dotchin. Friedman stated that sources told him that Dotchin reported to training camp with a body fat percentage of 25%, which was described as “extremely out of shape” and “way too high for an NHLer”. BMI, or body mass index, is the percentage of an individual’s body that is made up of fat, is a commonly used measure to determine health and physical fitness. The CDC lists a 25% BMI as the beginning of the “overweight” range for adults, which – as Friedman says – is totally unacceptable for a professional hockey player. While the CDC’s BMI formula only takes height and weight into account, which would not be accurate for any athlete weighed down by lean muscle, there are different ways to determine body fat percentage in athletes, procedures that Tampa Bay’s medical team are surely aware of. If these BMI results are indeed true, few could argue that Tampa was out of line to terminate Dotchin.
Again, Dotchin played a full season of hockey last season and didn’t appear to be slowed by poor conditioning. There were also reports that Dotchin has already received ample interest from other teams, though he has yet to sign anywhere. If Dotchin is able to pass a conditioning inspection with another team and return to being a competent NHL player, he would retain a solid case if he choose to file a grievance against the Lightning. However, Tampa Bay now has an equally strong argument that – regardless of Dotchin’s performance with another team – such a high BMI was simply unacceptable to the team and a completely objective decision. It still remains more likely that the two sides come to a resolution on this manner, but this news certainly brings the Lightning’s motivations into a new light.