Monday, October 20, 2014

CHL facing class-action suit . . . Rebels, 'Tips cut a deal

F Hampus Gustafsson (Regina, Brandon, 2009-11) signed a one-year contract with Grenoble (France, Ligue Magnus) after a successful tryout. This season, he has three goals and an assist in two games with Grenoble. He started the season with Pantern Malmö (Sweden, Division 1) and was pointless in three games.


Student-athletes or employees or independent contractors . . . or something else altogether?
Just what are major junior hockey players?
That is at the crux of a class-action lawsuit that was filed Friday in Toronto.
The statement of claim is looking for $180 million from the Canadian Hockey League and its 60 teams. The lawsuit claims that the CHL pays its players less than the minimum wage in various jurisdictions and that these players should also be eligible for vacation and overtime pay.
Robert Cribb of the Toronto Star reported Monday that “an unprecedented class action lawsuit striking at the economic foundations of junior hockey in Canada alleges the Canadian Hockey League and its teams ‘conspired’ to force young players into signing contracts that breach minimum wage laws.”
Cribb adds that the lawsuit “seeks $180 million in outstanding wages, vacation, holiday and overtime pay and employer payroll contributions for thousands of young players given as little as $35 a week for practices, games, training and travelling that could add up to more than full-time hours.”
Cribb’s story is right here.
Later Monday, David Branch, Gilles Courteau and Ron Robison, the three men who head up the CHL’s three leagues -- the OHL, QMJHL and WHL, respectively -- issued a joint news release.
It reads, in part:
“In terms of the class action that was filed in Toronto late last week, the CHL, our member leagues and teams will vigorously defend ourselves against this action which will not only have a negative effect on hockey in Canada but through all sports in which amateur student athletes are involved.”
The news release also mentioned various areas of what the CHL refers to as “the player experience,” including the education program, “extensive health and safety, anti-doping and mentoring programs,” along with “a comprehensive mental health program in partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association,” and “out-of-pocket expense coverage, equipment, billeting and travel costs.”
(Earlier this month, the OHL announced a partnership with the CMHA on a program named Talk Today. To this point there is no such program involving the WHL in partnership with the CMHA.)
For the last few years, the CHL and its member leagues and teams have gone to great lengths to claim that their players are student-athletes, and you can bet that will be at the crux of their defence, should it come to that.
However, we’re a long, long way from that point.
Ted Charney, the Toronto lawyer who filed the lawsuit, told Ryan Pyette of the London Free Press:
“Right now, it’s a proposed class-action. You need one representative plaintiff, which we have, and then you need to get it approved by a court. A judge has to decide whether or not to certify it as a class-action and the next step is to circulate a notice to the class members and they have 90 days to opt out, or they’re in.”
This, then, is Step 1. The speed at which the Canadian legal system works dictates that this action could take years to reach a conclusion, assuming that it proceeds that far.
The chances of it getting that far are, of course, awfully slim. The last thing the CHL wants to do is have its teams’ books opened for public perusal.
Still, it is going to be interesting watching this play itself out.
There was one humorous bit to the news release issued by Messrs. Branch, Courteau and Robison.
The last paragraph of the news release reads:
“In addition, despite all mentions to the contrary, recent communications and social media posts by Glenn Gumbley of the CHLPA lead us to believe that the Gumbleys are still actively involved on the fringes of junior hockey in Canada and with this action. The CHL will once again issue warnings to our players and their parents cautioning them about the Gumbleys.”
The Gumbleys, it seems, are bothering the CHL the way the mosquito in the cartoon raises havoc in the nudist colony. While the CHL tries to let on that the Gumbleys aren’t a bother, its arm are swatting furiously in an attempt to drive them away.
As is always the case in these situations, the CHL has instructed its teams not to comment on the filing of the lawsuit.
Brandon Archibald, a native of Port Huron, Mich., who played four-plus seasons in the OHL, has written an essay providing his perspective on what it’s like playing major junior hockey. He also addresses why he chose the OHL over the NCAA route. That piece is right here.

Bruce Gordon played three seasons in the WHL (Medicine Hat, Saskatoon, 1979-82). Eventually, he spent 28 years in law enforcement, most of that with the Saskatoon Police Service. He retired two years ago. Now, at the age of 51, Gordon is a student in the U of Saskatchewan’s college of law. . . . Jason Warick of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix has more right here.

John Chartrand, a former OHL and QMJHL goaltender, is suing the OHL’s Barrie Colts for $12 million, claiming that he was wrongly cleared to play shortly after being knock unconscious in a car accident. Rick Westhead of TSN reports on the lawsuit, that actually was filed on Dec. 12, 2012, right here.
Jeremy Roenick says he experienced 13 concussions during his playing career. Now the former NHLer admits to having memory loss, some slurred speech and, at times, difficulty finding the right word. . . . Aaron Taube of has more right here.

The Red Deer Rebels have acquired F Tyler Sandhu, 18, from the Everett Silvertips in exchange for fourth-round selections in the 2015 and 2016 bantam drafts. . . . Sandhu was a second-round selection by the Portland Winterhawks in the 2011 bantam draft. Everett acquired him as part of the deal in which D Seth Jones went to the Winterhawks. . . . Sandhu, from Richmond, B.C., had 33 points, including 19 goals, in 62 games as a freshman (2012-13) with Everett and added 30 points, 13 of them goals, in 49 games last season. . . . This season, he has one goal in nine games. . . . This will be the first of what no doubt will be a number of moves by Brent Sutter, the Rebels’ owner, general manager and head coach, aimed at strengthening his roster with the ultimate goal being the 2016 Memorial Cup, which will be held in Red Deer.
Nick Patterson of the Everett Herald wrote: “There was a discrepancy on why the trade took place. Everett general manager Garry Davidson said Sandhu was dissatisfied with his role on the team and requested a trade, while Sandhu said he didn’t request a trade and that it came as a surprise.”
Patterson’s story is right here.


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