The Vancouver Canucks put up more than $1.1 million to lure a world renowned sports psychologist away from Chelsea FC after last season, but employed him for only six months during the NHL lockout, according to a newly filed lawsuit.
Bruno Demichelis is suing the Canucks and owner Francesco Aquilini for allegedly being negligent in making “representations and promises” that convinced him to take the job.
Chelsea FC, an English soccer club that is among the most powerful in the world, hired Demichelis in 2009 after he had been instrumental in building a groundbreaking sports science centre known as MilanLab while he was with the Italian soccer club, AC Milan.
According to the lawsuit, Aquilini visited Demichelis in Europe three times during 2010 and 2011 and tried to convince him to leave his $1.3-million-a-year position with Chelsea to join the Canucks.
The Canucks brought him to Vancouver in September 2011 for a meeting with club staff and general manager Mike Gillis.
“During the visit, Aquilini told the plaintiff that he was very concerned about the physical and psychological condition of the Canucks players, and the negative impact it had on their performance in the  Stanley Cup final,” the B.C. Supreme Court lawsuit says.
The Canucks finally got their man last July. According to the lawsuit, the contract included a $700,000 salary, a $400,000 signing bonus, furnished living accommodations, a leased vehicle and other benefits. But Demichelis worked for the Canucks only until December — three months into the NHL lockout — when he received a termination letter, the lawsuit says.
Demichelis claims the Canucks facilitated the issuance of his work permit, and made several other promises, including:
— secure, long-term employment with the team
— to continue “reasonable” efforts to assist Demichelis in securing necessary authorizations to continue to work in Canada throughout the contract
— to form a business partnership with him in order to build a sports science lab in Vancouver
In the termination letter, the Canucks allegedly advised Demichelis that they were unable to apply on his behalf for an extension of the work permit because there were qualified Canadians available to do the work.
The club, relying on a memo and letter from the club’s law firm Clark Wilson LLP, alleged it had posted an ad for Demichelis’s position and that out of the 59 applicants, 29 Canadians met the requirements, says the suit.
The club concluded that there was no viable option to facilitate an extension of the work permit, it says.
But Demichelis says that the employment ad in no way reflected the skills and expertise he possessed and for which Aquilini and the team recruited him.
The club offered no compensation or severance payment after he was fired, he says.
After the termination, he discovered that his work permits were issued under a category known as “significant benefit” under which he was to perform work in Canada that was of significant benefit to the country.
“The plaintiff acted reasonably in relying upon the representations and promises to forego his other employment opportunities, move to Vancouver with his family, enter into the contract and provide technology to the club and the Canucks,” says the suit.
“Aquilini was negligent in making the representations and promises.”
Demichelis claims he’s suffered mental distress, loss and damage, including loss of salary and other perquisites. He is seeking unspecified general, aggravated, punitive and special damages.
Canucks Sports and Entertainment said in a statement they would “refrain from commenting on a matter involving a former employee and will respect the ongoing process.”
No response has yet been filed to the suit. A notice of civil claim contains allegations that have not been proven in court.
Named as defendants are Vancouver Canucks Limited Partnership and Aquilini, who could not be reached for comment.
Main reason I'm posting this article is the fact that Aquilini hired a sports psychologist. Just curious what everyone's thoughts on this are? I'm not sure what to think but I find it interesting that he thought the team needed a psychologist to work with them after the Stanley Cup final loss...
Edited by Samuel Pahlsson, 08 March 2013 - 11:47 PM.