The Canadian Hockey League Players’ Association is threatening to sue Ontario Hockey League over what it believes is a “blatant disregard for the bare minimum working standards that have been set for employees,” according to the Globe and Mail.
The CHLPA is a fledgling union with the goal of representing players under the umbrella of the Ontario Hockey League, Western Hockey League, and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
Major junior players — which range from the age of 15 to 20 — are typically paid about $35-$50 per week. The leagues prepare them for playing hockey professionally and many of the NHL’s best players have spent some time in the OHL, QMJHL or WHL along the way.
Additionally, education packages are made available, though there are limitations such as an 18-month expiration date.
The CHLPA claims the OHL is in violation of the Ontario’s Employment Standards Act for not paying its players minimum wage or providing them with vacation and overtime pay.
CHLPA spokesman Derek Clarke characterized legal action as a last resort and said the CHLPA hopes to engage in negotiations. At the same time, Clarke has a harsh opinion of the current state of the CHL.
“They don’t want to pay [more] in education, they want to restrict it, but then they don’t want to pay salaries either,” Clarke explained. “Basically they’re sweatshops. I just don’t get it why this has gone on for so long.”
NHL player agent Todd Christie previously filed a lawsuit against the OHL in 2005 when one of his clients didn’t get his education package on time. However, Christie gave credit to the CHL for enhancing their education system since that time.
“The minimum-wage issue is certainly a live one,” Christie said. “But the majority of complaints that I would have had [with the education system] before 2006 or so have been addressed and resolved.”
He still thinks the union probably has a strong case if it sues.