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 as class actions in Ontario and Alberta* 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.
* The decision of the Quebec court as to whether to authorize a class action against the QMJHL and its teams is still under reserve.
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.