Lawsuit alleges hockey league conspiracy

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The NHL logo is seen on a goal at a Nashville Predators training rink in Nashville, TN on September 17, 2012.

Canadian press

A pending lawsuit alleges tens of thousands of aspiring hockey players owe $ 825 million or more after being conspired by the very leagues they have played in for the past 10 years.

The proposed class action dated September 14 and filed in federal court in Montreal names the National Hockey League, the American Hockey League, the East Coast Hockey League, the Canadian Hockey League, the Hockey League of Ontario, the Western Hockey League, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and Hockey Canada as defendants.

Once served with the document, they have 30 days to respond if they are in Canada and 40 days in the United States. The complaint, which cites possible violations of the Federal Competition Act, calls for the case to be heard in Montreal.

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He was dropped off by Kobe Mohr, a former WHL player, on behalf of himself and others. The 21-year-old from Alberta played for four teams for six seasons at the major-junior level. Major and junior players are mostly between 16 and 20 years old and are still considered amateurs in Canada. They are only paid nominally, but receive covered travel expenses and receive free room, board and scholarship if they choose to pursue university studies afterwards.

However, players do not receive the scholarship if he signs a professional contract.

The majority of NHL players start at the Major-Junior level, which has 60 teams spread across Canada and the United States under the CHL umbrella.

The proposed lawsuit alleges that the defendants have created a league system whereby the overwhelming majority of players never reach the professional elite level and spend years playing for nominal sums to benefit their teams.

He further says that CHL players are not represented by a players’ association and, as such, are unable to negotiate a collective agreement, which violates section 1 of the Canadian Bill of Rights.

He also alleges that the defendants place unreasonable conditions on players once they are drafted by a major junior club. CHL players must be between the ages of 18 and 20 to be eligible for the NHL Draft, but restrictions limit their ability to play in other professional leagues. The restrictions include a fee of up to $ 500,000 for a player to leave his major-junior club and join an AHL or ECHL team, says the proposed class action.

None of the charges have been proven.

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“The [the current system] makes it impossible, ”says Félix-Antoine Michaud, the Quebec lawyer who filed the case. “The idea is to break up hockey players who want to play elsewhere. You have no choice but the NHL or the CHL and it is not legal under the laws of Canada. ”

The NHL is named in the pending action because it pays CHL teams when one of their players is selected in the NHL Draft.

The lawsuit is asking $ 50,000 per season for lost income for each player who competed in one of the three major-junior leagues that make up the CHL; $ 2,500 per player for the loss of his rights to market his image, his sponsorships and his promotional opportunities; and, $ 2,500 per player for moral damages and for violation of fundamental rights to liberty of players.

Overall, according to the claim, Canadian CHL players have much less choice and freedom, if any, than European-born players, who have the opportunity to play in the AHL or ECHL before they go. reach the age of 20 and receive a salary. negotiated by a players association. CHL players are not allowed to play NCAA hockey because the NCAA believes their rights make them professionals.

“The general thing is that junior hockey has created a system to make a millionaire handful [owners] richer at the expense of these young players, ”Michaud said.

Paul Krotz, the CHL’s communications director, said the league has yet to receive a statement.

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“As we get one, we’ll take a deep look at it and provide further feedback if necessary,” Krotz said.

Jason Chaimovitch, AHL vice president of communications, said the league had no comment.

Neither the NHL nor the ECHL responded to a request for comment.

Attempts were made to join Mohr – who has played 265 WHL games and had 35 goals and 101 points – but to no avail.

Michaud said the proposed class action must first be certified by the Federal Court.

“It’s a long haul,” he says.

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