An absolute bombshell was dropped on the NHL and other North American hockey leagues yesterday, and not enough people are talking about it.
The Toronto Star, a Canadian based newspaper dropped the news of a $825 million lawsuit, alleging that the NHL conspires to limit the opportunities for junior league hockey players.
The claim was filed by Kobe Mohr, 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 suit claims that players that play for the aforementioned leagues (such as Kobe Mohr) are pawns in “an unlawful conspiracy, arrangement or agreement” to limit the opportunities of playing pro hockey during the ages of 18-20. The suit goes on to allege that players in these leagues play for “nominal sums of money”, while the vast majority of them will never be given an opportunity to reach the top pro leagues.
Different In Other Leagues
The cornerstone for this argument, will be whether the lawsuit can effectively prove that these leagues act differently than in other leagues around the world. According the the document filed for the class-action suit, players in Russia and Europe are given a more clear path towards professional leagues while they’re playing in the juniors.
“Overall, Canadian-based players that are playing in major junior leagues have substantially less choices and freedom, if any, than European-based players, who have the opportunity to play in the AHL or ECHL before reaching the age of 20 and be paid a salary negotiated by a professional association,” the suit states.”
The lawsuit goes on to accuse the NHL of offering incentives for Canadian-based junior teams when a player on their team gets drafted into the NHL, creating an “unlawful arrangement between the defendants.”
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How To Make Sense Of It All
Basically, what this suit claims is that the Canadian leaguers are put through the ringer, while other young players around the world have the advantage to be compensated properly for their play. I think this argument holds a lot of merit. Whether it all will stand up in a court of law remains to be seen.
It is pretty sketchy that the NHL and these Canadian leagues have a structure in place to make these kids bounce around in the junior leagues, with hopes of being drafted, while players in Europe and Russia are free to sign with any team at any age.
This isn’t the first time that the Canadian junior leagues have been under fire either. In May, the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) settled three class-action lawsuits, filed by current and former CHL players who were seeking backpay for receiving minimum wage. At the time, the CHL claimed that these players were considered student-athletes, and they were properly compensated with tuition and school supplies. However, if labeling the players is all part of a scheme to keep them poor while the leagues flourish, then NHL and all these other leagues could be in big trouble. It will be interesting to see how this all shakes out, and it probably won’t be settled anytime soon.