Settlement Hearing Details
The court hearing to consider the proposed settlement, distribution protocol and fee request of Class Counsel will be accessible online through the link below or through telephone at the numbers below:
Meeting ID: 655 9858 5560
The hearing will commence at 10:00 am (Alberta) / 12:00 noon (Toronto and Québec). Anyone wishing to attend should log on or call in 15 minutes prior to the commencement of the hearing. Non-counsel participants are not entitled to address the court and will be muted by the registrar. The courts may, at their discretion, ask whether any member of the class wishes to address the court at which point the registrar will unmute any, individual granted leave to address the court. By attending the hearing class members are not required to address the court and are entitled to merely observe the proceedings if they wish.
Physical courts listed below will be available on the day of the hearing, but capacity will be limited as a result of COVID-19.
130 Queen St W,
Quebec (maximum capacity of 8):
Court room 15.03
Palais de justice
1 Notre-Dame St. East,
Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta
2401N, 601 – 5th Street, S.W.
OPEN LETTER TO CHL COMMUNITY
In 2014, class action lawsuits were commenced claiming that CHL players are employees and subject to employment standards acts and not amateur student athletes. You may know these as the “minimum wage lawsuits”.
The question the lawsuits asked was whether CHL players are amateur student athletes or employees.
We believe that CHL players are amateur student athletes and that our player experience, Players First, provides for the most extensive benefit package of any junior hockey organization in the world and which comes at no cost to our players and their families. It includes the best academic scholarship in sport, on-ice training and development, equipment, off-ice programs focused on mental health and wellness. When totaled, the Players First experience far exceeds what CHL players would earn on minimum wage.
In lawsuits of this nature it is required that the parties meet for mediation, where they discuss a resolution that would be reached quickly and without having to go through extensive court time and costs. Earlier this year we met with the lawyers for the plaintiffs and agreed on a settlement that would see the end of the court case and an award of $30 million which will cover their lawyer’s fees, funder’s fees and other legal costs. The remainder will be distributed to players in the class. We did this because cases like these are very expensive and are a distraction to the league and as we had publicly disclosed, we had $30 million in insurance for these lawsuits.
This settlement does not mean that we agree with the plaintiffs. It means that we wanted to end the lawsuits so we could continue to focus on being the best development league in hockey.
All Canadian provincial governments reviewed the issue of player status and clarified in their legislation that our players are amateur student athletes and not employees covered by minimum wage or employment laws. While this ended the issue going forward, the lawsuits continued to be a distraction and would continue to damage the financial position of our teams by costing millions of dollars in legal fees for 5 to 10 more years. Millions of dollars that would pay lawyers and add nothing to our player experience or the strength of our teams.
These lawsuits were settled just prior to the shutdown due to COVID-19. We still have no idea of the final impact this pandemic will have on our teams, players and our fans. We do know that we do not want to spend time on legal wrangling – we need to focus on getting back on the ice in a way that protects our players and fans.
SETTLEMENT REACHED IN MAJOR JUNIOR HOCKEY CLASS ACTIONS
Toronto – In 2014, three lawsuits were commenced in Ontario, Quebec and Alberta, claiming that major junior hockey players in the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) are employees subject to employment standards legislation, rather than student athletes.
The CHL and its member leagues and teams have been defending these class actions in the Ontario, Alberta and Quebec Courts. All three class actions were certified as class actions by the Courts, but no determination was made on the merits of these claims.
In February, the Plaintiffs (Sam Berg, Lukas Walter, Travis McEvoy, Kyle O’Connor and Thomas Gobeil) and Defendants (CHL, Ontario Hockey League, Western Hockey League, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and their Canadian teams) entered into settlement discussions with the help of their respective counsel and an agreed-upon mediator. The Plaintiffs and Defendants reached a settlement of the three class actions, subject to approval of the Courts.
The mediation and settlement took place before COVID lockdowns and followed the enactment of legislative declarations in each of the provinces in which the CHL teams operate, stating that major junior hockey players are not employees within the meaning of the applicable employment standards acts.
The settlement recognizes that, as a result of these legislative declarations, there is now no legally recognized obligation for owners to treat players as employees under the employment standards acts presently in effect in the provinces with CHL teams. The Defendants maintain that there never was any such obligation.
Under the terms of the settlement, the defendants will pay $30 million to the class, a portion of which will be payable to class counsel on account of legal fees and disbursements, as is typical in class actions. In exchange, the class will give the defendants a full and final release. The litigation will be over when the settlement has been implemented.
More details related to the proposed settlement are available at www.chlclassaction.com
Charney Lawyers PC
416-964-7950 ext. 225
Goldblatt Partners LLP
For more information in Quebec or questions in French:
Savonitto & Ass. Inc.
CHL Class Action Defence
The CHL, our member leagues and teams provide what is referred to as the “school of life” program that allows our young men to focus both and school and hockey and includes; educational and mentorship programs, anti-doping programs, respect and anti-bullying programs, and a mental health program. In addition, the players are involved in community and charitable events on a regular basis. This is combined with the best on-ice and off-ice training, equipment and coaching in amateur sport. These supports not only enrich each player’s experience, they equip these young men to be successful students and positive contributors to any group or endeavor they join in the future.
Three class action proceedings have been started against CHL teams by five former players known as representative plaintiffs. These former players have complained about their experiences in our leagues. The lawsuit is supported by a group of lawyers who we don’t believe have any experience with our teams or leagues. We have been obliged to participate in a legal process that has been ongoing for over 5 years, placing a significant strain on the time and other resources that could otherwise be dedicated to further enhancing the CHL player experience.
The cases have been certified/authorized as class actions in Ontario, Alberta and Quebec. The legal battle over the merits of the plaintiffs’ claims is just beginning. While we will defend the case vigorously, we also believe that if we are not successful, the result may fundamentally change how we operate and the benefits we can offer our players. We believe that this case could change our system of player development that has allowed our country to develop the best hockey players in the world.
Our model of development is based on the belief that if you give amazing young athletes who love our game the best equipment, coaching and competition they will have the opportunity to achieve their hockey goals. We know that some will be able to play in the NHL but most others will go on to succeed in other careers in large part due to the scholarship they received upon graduation and the leadership skills they acquired in achieving team goals.
Our CHL player experience is based on eliminating the financial burden of elite athletics for hockey families by paying all expenses and for those who do not play professional hockey, providing for their education by funding the best hockey scholarship program of its’ kind in the world.
The CHL scholarship is to guarantees all players a minimum of one year of scholarship benefits for each year played on one of our teams. To our knowledge there is no private scholarship program in the hockey world that compares.
We are proud of the hockey development model that we have created with the involvement of hockey players and families.
We are proud of all CHL graduates who credit their time in our league as helping them achieve their hockey goals.
We are also proud of our former players who have used their scholarship to help them succeed in virtually every other professional pursuit.
We believe that our model of world class hockey development and guaranteed scholarships may be put at risk by these lawsuits.
We believe the lawsuits fundamentally misunderstand the nature of amateur sport, including major junior hockey, in Canada. We believe our players are amateur athletes. The plaintiffs believe that players should be regulated as employees and covered by employment regulations including minimum wages. We strongly believe that the current player experience and benefits offered by our teams, far exceed the minimum wages sought in the claim.
We do not believe amateur sport can or should be regulated by employment legislation. The governments across our country agree with the CHL. Almost every province and state in which our teams play have reviewed our player experience and have agreed that employment laws and minimum wages should not apply to our players. Despite this, the lawsuits and the resulting challenge to our player experience and development system continues.
These lawsuits could cause serious damage to our teams, the CHL and the entire Canadian hockey system. Depending on the result, a number of small market teams may cease to exist. The damages claimed by the plaintiffs may result in the bankruptcy of some of our teams.
Depending on the court ruling, many teams that do continue may be forced to eliminate or make fundamental changes to the scholarship program, provision of equipment, practice ice time, billet costs and all other benefits currently provided.
The ramifications of a possible court precedent may also be significant across amateur sports, potentially putting other student and amateur athletics in Canada at risk. This includes all U SPORTS, Olympic athletes and others.