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Lawsuit alleges conspiracy of hockey leagues

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The NHL logo can be seen on a target at a Nashville Predators practice range in Nashville, Tennessee on September 17, 2012.

The Canadian Press

An ongoing lawsuit alleges that tens of thousands of aspiring hockey players owe $ 825 million or more following conspiracy by the leagues in which they played for the past 10 years.

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

Once the document is served, they have 30 days to respond if they are in Canada and 40 days in the United States. The claim, citing possible violations of federal competition law, calls for the case to be heard in Montreal.

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It was submitted by Kobe Mohr, a former player in the WHL, 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 junior players are usually between the ages of 16 and 20 and are still considered amateurs in Canada. They are paid only nominally, but are reimbursed for travel expenses and receive free room and board and scholarships if they subsequently decide to pursue a university degree.

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

A majority of players in the NHL start at the junior major level, which has 60 teams across Canada and the US under the CHL umbrella.

The proposed lawsuit alleges that the defendants have created a system of competitions whereby the vast majority of players never reach the professional level of the elite and instead play for years for nominal amounts, bringing a lot of financial benefit to their teams.

It goes on to say that CHL players are not represented by a players association and as such are unable to negotiate a collective agreement, which is in violation of section 1 of the Canadian Bill of Rights.

It also alleges that the defendants are imposing unreasonable conditions on players once drafted by a major junior club. CHL players must be between the ages of 18 and 20 to be eligible for the NHL drawing, but restrictions limit their ability to play in other professional leagues. The restrictions include fees of up to $ 500,000 for a player to leave their major-junior club and move to a team in the AHL or the ECHL, the proposed class procedure says.

None of the charges have been proven.

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It [the current system] makes it impossible, said Flix-Antoine Michaud, the Quebec attorney who filed the case. The whole idea is to break hockey players who want to play elsewhere. You have no choice but to be the NHL or the CHL, which is illegal under Canada law. “

The NHL is mentioned in the ongoing action because it compensates CHL teams when one of their players is selected in the NHL draft.

The lawsuit charges $ 50,000 per season for loss of income for each player who participated in any of the three major junior leagues that make up the CHL; $ 2,500 per player for the loss of rights to market their image, sponsorship and endorsement opportunities; and $ 2,500 per player for moral damages and for violations of the players’ fundamental rights to freedom.

Overall, the claim says that Canadian players in the CHL have significantly fewer choices and possibly less freedom than European-born players, who have the option to play in the AHL or ECHL before reaching the age of 20 and a salary to get. 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 handful of millionaires [owners] richer at the expense of these young players, Michaud said.

Paul Krotz, the CHL’s communications director, said the league has not yet received a claim.

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The moment we receive one, we will review it thoroughly and provide further commentary if necessary, Krotz said.

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

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

Attempts were made to reach Mohr, who played in 265 games in the WHL and had 35 goals and 101 points, but was unsuccessful.

Michaud said the proposed class action must first be certified by federal court.

It’s a long run, he said.

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