A lawsuit alleges that the NHL and junior leagues conspire to limit player opportunities

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A proposed class action lawsuit alleges North America’s most powerful hockey leagues are conspiring to limit opportunities for young players.The complaint was brought by Kobe Mohr, a 21-year-old man from Lloydminster, Alta., Who played for four teams in the Western Hockey League from 2015-2020.

The NHL, WHL, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League, American Hockey League, ECHL and Hockey Canada are listed as defendants.

The WHL, OHL and LHJMQ operate under the aegis of the Canadian Hockey League, which settled three more class actions in May.

The most recent lawsuit also calls for financial compensation for the CHL players, but not just the CHL.

The lawsuit alleges that the defendants participated in “an illegal conspiracy, arrangement or arrangement” to limit the opportunities for Mohr and other Canadians to earn a living playing professional hockey between the ages of 18 and 20.

The document claims the defendants have created a system in which the overwhelming majority of players will never make it to the top professional leagues, spending years playing for “minimal sums, all to the financial benefit of the defendants.”

“This practice creates a system that imprisons young hockey players between the ages of 16 and 20,” said lawyer Félix-Antoine Michaud, whose Quebec cabinet filed the complaint on behalf of Mohr.

“The player in Canada does not have the same rights as a European player. A Canadian player does not have the opportunity to play in the American and East Coast leagues at 18 or 19. A European player has the opportunity to play. in these leagues at 18 and 19.

“This arrangement is not legal under competition law. ”

None of the allegations have been proven in court. The lawsuit must be certified by the courts to become a class action. No statement of defense has been filed.

Different structure in Europe, Russia

The AHL declined to comment, while a spokesperson for the CHL said the league had not received the document.

None of the other organizations mentioned in the lawsuit immediately provided a comment.

Mohr played 265 WHL games with the Edmonton Oil Kings, Kamloops Blazers, Kelowna Rockets and Moose Jaw Warriors.

The winger spent the majority of the 2019-20 season in the Alberta Junior Hockey League, but appeared in 18 games for the Rockets and Warriors.

The lawsuit says Mohr and players like him are not represented by player associations and are not free to organize a group to negotiate a collective agreement for themselves.

The costume recalls the structure of hockey in Europe and Russia, where professional clubs can recruit young players for professional contracts and award them to junior or reserve teams.

“Overall, players based in Canada who play in major junior leagues have a lot less choice and freedom, if at all, than players based in Europe, who have the option of playing in the AHL or ECHL. before reaching the age of 20 and being paid. a salary negotiated by a professional association ”, indicates the lawsuit.

NHL teams pay bonuses or “development” money to CHL clubs whose players are drafted, what the lawsuit calls “illegal arrangements” between the defendants.

“This strategy is to keep the player in the CHL and the CHL wants to keep the player in the league to have the ability to have that money,” Michaud said.

“The NHL and the CHL have an agreement together that no player can play in an affiliated league, the AHL or the ECHL. The players have no rights. They do not have a say under this agreement. ”

The trio of lawsuits that the CHL recently settled involved claims that the CHL players are employees subject to labor laws and have wage arrears for minimum wage.

Governments in jurisdictions where CHL teams operate have either changed the legislation or said their employment standards do not apply to major junior hockey players.

The settlements totaled $ 30 million. Squad members were paid on the basis of length – full, half-season, or quarter-season – in their respective leagues.

The CHL has always considered major junior players, who are generally between the ages of 16 and 20, student-athletes.

Players receive money for personal expenses, equipment, accommodation and travel expenses while on a CHL roster.

They are also currently eligible for post-secondary scholarships, with each season spent in the league worth one year of tuition, books and compulsory fees.

The WHL, OHL and QMJHL said 956 players combined raised $ 7 million in scholarships in the 2019-20 academic year.

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