Hockey Player: Fresno’s On Thin Ice

Save Mart Center facility manager SMG and California State University, Fresno, are named in a lawsuit filed by a former Fresno Falcons hockey player May 31st alleging unsafe ice conditions at the venue in 2006 led to season-ending injuries and damaged his career.

Cory Murphy, a former defenseman for the minor league Falcons, suffered a broken leg, dislocated ankle and other physical injuries seven minutes into a February 24, 2006, game at the Save Mart Center on the university campus, according to the complaint filed in Fresno County Superior Court.

The player slammed, untouched, into the boards when a skate lost its edge on ice Murphy alleges was "not thick enough, strong enough, or maintained enough for playing hockey." The game was halted and rescheduled.

Falcons coaches complained to Save Mart Center officials earlier in the day that "the conditions of the ice were so poor that concrete actually was exposed in places near the edge of the rink where [Murphy] later was injured," according to the complaint.

It also alleges that venue officials were not only aware of poor ice conditions on the day of Murphy’s injury but "on many occasions prior to that," and failed to adequately maintain or repair the ice.

Save Mart Center GM Steve Tadlock told Pollstar he had not seen the complaint at press time and could not comment, adding it is SMG’s policy to not comment on pending litigation. Rene Turner Sample, an attorney for Murphy, told Pollstar neither she nor the player is giving interviews regarding the lawsuit.

A February 19th game at the Save Mart Center – a year after Murphy’s injury – was also postponed because of unsafe ice conditions, this time caused by a raised advertising logo close to the skating surface.

Murphy’s suit seeks unspecified damages for loss of wages, medical expenses, loss of earnings capacity, and compensatory and punitive damages.

The lawsuit charges general negligence, failure to warn and premises liability and also names as defendants the State of California, CSU Board of Trustees and the CSUF Association, a non-profit foundation that oversees the arena.