Turns out there is big money in junior hockey and it’s not going to players

The Hockey News, February 9, 2017

Ken Campbell of The Hockey News reviews the financial status of the CHL and its member leagues and teams after Justice Hall ordered that their financial records were produced in the class action.  Click here to read the article.

WHL players’ class-action suit given green light

Winnipeg Free Press, June 16, 2017

Click here to read the article.

CHL minimum-wage lawsuit involves 351 current and former players

TSN, December 2, 2016

A lawyer representing current and former major-junior hockey players says 351 players have registered as participants in a proposed class-action lawsuit against the Canadian Hockey League.

Click here to read the article.

We’re about to find out if the CHL can afford to pay its hockey players

Global News, November 1, 2016

Can major junior hockey clubs afford to pay their players? It’s a question that has been raised in a legal battle that’s been ongoing since 2014, when a class-action lawsuit was launched against the Canadian Hockey League (CHL).

The lawsuit, filed by Charney Lawyers PC, alleges the league’s players are underpaid and seeks millions of dollars in financial compensation.

Global News
Major junior clubs, like the Western Hockey League’s (WHL) Calgary Hitmen, have always stated they simply can’t afford to pay the players minimum wage, and can only cover expenses and provide academic scholarships. But until now, the teams haven’t had to open up their books to prove it.

On Friday, Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Justice R.J. Hall granted Charney’s motion and ruled teams must reveal their finances to back up their claims.

Click here to read the article.

CHL teams will have a hard time convincing people their players are not employees when their books are opened

London Free Press, November 2, 2016

Morris Dalla Costa of the London Free Press discusses the implications of the recent court order for CHL, WHL, and all WHL and OHL teams to to disclose their financial records. Regarding the players’ employment status, he states “[t]o call them amateur players is at best a real stretch and at worse an outright fabrication.”

Click here to read the article.

CHL Notebook: Goals, gaffes and a gargantuan lawsuit

SportsNet, October 31, 2016

The big news of the week that was in the CHL came off the ice as the ongoing saga surrounding a $180-million class action lawsuit against the league continues. An Alberta judge ordered the 42 WHL and OHL teams to open their books and reveal the numbers behind their businesses. So, for the first time, the public might actually get a good picture of the kind of revenue major-junior hockey franchises generate.

Click here to read the article.

The face of major junior hockey’s class-action wage lawsuit

Vancouver Sun, October 21, 2016

“The bottom line is, you know, I just think the suit is going to be the best for the future of the league…It’s a great place, but there are all these things that need fixing…And you essentially need it to be more fair for everyone across the league.”

The Vancouver Sun’s Ian Mulgrew interviewed Lukas Walter, proposed representative plaintiff in the WHL class action, about his time playing in the WHL and his motivations in bringing the lawsuit.

Click here to read the article.

Judge orders CHL franchises to hand over tax returns, financial statements

TSN, October 28, 2016

Rick Westhead discusses Justice Hall’s recent decision to order the CHL, WHL, and all WHL and OHL teams to disclose their financial records.

Click here to read the article.

Argument against paying junior hockey players evokes another league that fought compensation — the NHL

National Post, October 30, 2016

“When Conn Smythe and James Norris and the other old, rich men of hockey were trying to stave off the formation of a[n NHL] players association in the late 1950s, they warned that granting their players rights that were common to workers in other professions would destroy the sport.

It seems to have turned out OK.”

Scott Stinson pens an op/ed comparing the CHL’s current poverty defence with the NHL owners’ fight against the establish of a player union in the 1950s.

Click here to read the article.

CHL teams ordered to turn over tax info by Alberta judge

CBC, October 30, 2016

CBC News reports on recent developments in the WHL action, including Justice Hall’s decision to order significant financial productions from the CHL, WHL, and the individual WHL and OHL teams.

Click here to read the article.

Should junior athletes be paid at least a minimum wage?

CBC, October 21, 2016

Class action lawyer Ted Charney, Western Hockey League Commissioner Ron Robison, and University of Victoria professor Ken Thornicroft joined Gloria Macarenko on CBC’s B.C. Almanac to discuss the CHL class actions and whether junior athletes should be paid at least a minimum wage. Listen to the episode here.

Liberals ‘save’ hockey in B.C., but do so on the sly

Ottawa Citizen, October 22, 2016

Vaughn Palmer of the Ottawa Citizen decires the British Columbia government’s lack of consultation before announcing waiver of minimum wage benefits to WHL players in the province.

Click here to read the article.

Forecheck, backcheck — how about a junior hockey paycheque?

Vancouver Sun, October 21, 2016

The Vancouver Sun’s Ian Mulgrew criticises the WHL for “exploiting” players and takes aim at new BC legislation. Read the article here.

The sad legacy of how National Hockey League owners exploited players for much of the 20th century apparently lives on in major junior hockey.

Astoundingly, owners of B.C.’s six profit-driven teams seem to have persuaded the provincial Liberal cabinet to bring back indentured labour.

Developments in Class Action Lawsuit

Sportsnet, October 22, 2016

John Grigg of Sportsnet writes on recent updates in the CHL class actions.

Click here to read the article.

Hockey Lawsuit: Can the CHL Afford to Pay Its Players?

TSN’s Rick Westhead explains why former players filed a lawsuit against the Canadian Hockey League, and gives the latest update in the case. CTV, September 29, 2016.

Ben Mulroney: This is such a surprising revelation for people who have not been following this. How can they get away with not paying them minimum wage. You would think that would be the minimum that’s required.

Rick Westhead: Because in these local markets teams have a lot of political sway… Three provinces in Canada – Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and British Columbia – have actually changed provincial laws to relax regulations so the teams don’t have to pay minimum wage. That’s without looking at the teams’ financial statements.

Players ask court to order CHL teams to provide financial, tax documents

TSN, September 28, 2016

Rick Westhead at TSN reports on recent Court applications by the plaintiff seeking financial disclosure from the WHL and OHL clubs. The application will be heard by the Court in Calgary on October 7, 2016. Read the article here.

A group of former players suing the Canadian Hockey League are asking a Calgary judge to order 42 major junior teams to turn over their tax returns and financial statements dating back to 2011 to establish whether those franchises are profitable or lose money.

The players are also asking a Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench judge to order Western Hockey League commissioner Ron Robison and Ontario Hockey League commissioner David Branch to produce all of their leagues’ revenue-sharing agreements.

Why it might be a good thing for junior teams to pay minimum wage – and be fewer of them

The Hockey News, July 7, 2016

Ken Campbell at the Hockey News has written an article supporting the idea that players should be paid minimum wage. Read the article here.

It’s not as though the CHL is producing NHL players at such a prodigious rate that it can’t keep up with the demand. On average, you can expect two or three players per team to become full-time NHL players once their junior careers end. The vast majority of kids who play major junior hockey don’t go on to any level of pro hockey. So if those 20 teams that consistently lose money were not in the picture, would it actually make a difference in producing NHL players?

Heck, yeah, it would. In fact, your trusty correspondent would argue that, in fact, it might produce more. One of the problems with junior hockey is there are too many teams and there is a lack of depth of talent. Having fewer teams would raise the quality of play in all three leagues and might actually make the players in them better because they’d consistently be facing better competition. And that would probably more adequately prepare them for playing in the NHL. It’s more difficult to develop bad habits when you know there are no nights off.

And if the small markets of junior hockey want to stay in the action, perhaps it’s up to their fans to pay for it. Would people in Moose Jaw or Prince Albert or Rouyn-Noranda be willing to pay $5 or $10 more per ticket for the privilege of having a junior hockey team? If so, they’ll do it through good times and bad. If not, perhaps they’re playing out of their league in the first place. And having fewer of them around would not diminish the product one bit. It would, in fact, make it better.

CHL franchises, worth millions, can afford to pay players: study

TSN, July 6, 2016

Read the article here.

The Calgary Hitmen are the most valuable franchise in Canadian major junior hockey, according to a study recently filed in an Ontario court as part of a lawsuit against the Canadian Hockey League.

According to a report on franchise economics filed in Ontario Superior Court in Toronto on June 14, the Hitmen are worth $68.95 million, tops among the 42 teams in the Ontario Hockey League and Western Hockey League.

Former OHL owner says confidential side deal to lure player was a ‘mistake’

TSN, July 5, 2016

Read the article here.

Sherry Bassin, a long-time Canadian junior hockey executive, gave one of his former players with the Erie Otters a side deal worth thousands of dollars that was not approved by the Ontario Hockey League.

Details of the payments to former Otters forward Jeremy Gottzmann were included in documents filed in Ontario Superior Court on June 28 and confirmed by Bassin, the Otters’ former owner and general manager who has been involved in all levels of hockey for more than 40 years.

Bassin confirmed that he made the payments to Gottzmann.

Hockey’s Puppy Mill: A former junior player takes the CHL to court

By Nicholas Hune-Brown at The Walrus, December 2015

The article provides some background information and explains some of the key issues in the litigation. Read the article here.

Describing players as “amateur” seems like wishful assertion rather than a reflection of reality. Buy a $28 standing-room ticket to a Peterborough Petes playoff game, for instance, and you’ll find yourself among people wearing $120 jerseys and $30 hats, watching a “Pizza Pizza Powerplay” followed by a “penalty kill brought to you by Conpute.” Between periods, a tiny blimp trailing a banner for the Brick furniture store woozily circles the rink while a Zamboni plastered in ads for Jack Link’s beef jerky resurfaces the ice. The atmosphere mirrors the professional experience in nearly every possible way. There are coaches, general managers, referees, and ushers. Teens sell beer and pizza. The only ones who aren’t paid? The players.

Nova Scotia amends Labour Standards Code to block hockey class action lawsuit

By Professor David Doorey at The Law of Work

Nova Scotia recently legislated to exclude “athletes…engaged in their athletic endeavour” from the provincial Labour Standard Code, after being lobbied by the CHL. This article provides a legal perspective on why that was a mistake. Read the article here.

We have a government intervening to exclude the application of basic minimum standards for the expressed purpose of protecting a small industry from the costs associated with complying with a law that applies to most other workplaces in the province.

Of course, lots of employers complain that labour standards laws threaten their survival, and yet we do not exclude every employer who makes that claim.  There is a good reason why.  The principal purpose of minimum employment standards laws is to signal to the business community and workers what is the absolute floor of working conditions that is tolerable to society at a given place and time.  If employers cannot afford to comply with even this basic floor, then they should not be in business or they should reorganize their model, such as for example charging more for their products (i.e. tickets, beer, souvenirs, and hot dogs). That is the message conveyed by minimum standards laws.

Lawsuits Target Canadian Junior Hockey League System

New York Times, December, 2014

This article provides interesting background to the class action lawsuit. Read the article here.

“This lawsuit is bigger than a lot of people, even I, could have guessed,” Berg said. “I think this is really part of a movement that’s going to stop exploitation of players around any game.”

Video: Can junior hockey lawsuit change amateur sports? / Canadian Hockey League

MSNBC, December, 2014

Westhead: Ex-OHL owner says clubs make millions on ‘back of kids,’ then ‘wash their hands of them’

TSN, November, 2014

Comments by the former owner of the Mississauga IceDogs might surprise you. Read the article here.

“Does the league wash their hands of them and say we are done with them? Yes. This is what they do,” he said. “Players are a disposable commodity. The league has a social responsibility to look after these kids, but a lot of [former CHL players] haven’t even finished Grade 12. Then what happens? Minimum wage jobs.

They say: ‘Here’s your education package, God bless you, off you go,’” Forgione said. “A lot of players fall through the cracks in the OHL. What happens after they play four years, they’re 21. How many guys are going back to school at that point? The teams are supposed to have an educational consultant on the team, but let’s face it, you’ve to keep on top of 30 kids, 16, 17, 18-year-old boys. It’s hard enough to make sure one kid is going to school, let alone 30.”

Forgione said, “The bottom line is when they have done a four-year stint in the OHL, what are they equipped to do? If they aren’t equipped to do something meaningful in life, where do they end up?”

Canada’s junior hockey teams violate minimum wage laws: lawsuit

The CBC, October 20, 2014

The article reports on the class action after it was filed. Read the article here.

Charney says all CHL players sign a contract that requires them to perform what amounts to full-time work through travel, practices and games. In return, he said, players earn a weekly paycheque of between $35 and $50.

“[The players] spend up to four to five hours a day, seven days a week working with the team providing services for the team, practices, games and everything else associated with it,” said Charney on Monday in an interview on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning.

Video: Junior hockey players seek millions in class-action lawsuit

CTV News, October 20, 2014

Video: Lawsuit seeking millions launched against CHL

Sportsnet/Canadian Press, October 20, 2014

CHL Class Action Launched

Charney Lawyers Press Release, October, 2014

Read our press release here.

It is alleged that the standard form contract signed by all players is identical or materially the same, and provides for a set weekly fee ranging from $35 – $125 per week with no compensation provided on an hourly basis; no overtime pay; no vacation pay; and no holiday pay. The average player in the OHL devotes 35 to 40 hours a week to the team and receives a weekly fee of $50. The employment standards legislation for each jurisdiction in which a team owned by the defendant is domiciled provides that employees must receive at least the minimum wage prescribed by the applicable legislation.