Lawsuit claims NHL, minor pro, junior leagues conspire to limit player opportunity

Lawsuit claims NHL, minor pro, junior leagues conspire to limit player opportunity

Lawsuit claims NHL, minor pro, junior leagues conspire to limit player opportunity

MONTREAL — A proposed class-action lawsuit alleges North America’s most powerful hockey leagues are conspiring to limit opportunities for young players.

The claim was filed by Kobe Mohr, a 21-year-old Lloydminster, Alta., man who played for four teams in the Western Hockey League from 2015 to 2020.

The NHL, WHL, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League, American Hockey League, ECHL and Hockey Canada are listed as defendants.

The WHL, OHL and QMJHL operate under the umbrella of the Canadian Hockey League, which settled three other class action lawsuits in May.

The more recent suit also asks for financial compensation for CHL players, but not only from the CHL.

The suit alleges the defendants participated in “an unlawful conspiracy, arrangement or agreement” to limit opportunities for Mohr and other Canadians to make a living playing pro hockey between the ages of 18 and 20.

The document claims the defendants have created a system where the overwhelming majority of players will never reach the top pro leagues, instead spending years playing for “nominal sums of money, all to the financial advantage of the defendants.”

“This practice creates a system that imprisons young hockey players between 16 and 20,” said lawyer Félix-Antoine Michaud, whose Quebec-based firm filed the lawsuit on Mohr’s behalf.

“The player in Canada doesn’t have the same rights as a European player. A Canadian player doesn’t have the possibility to play in the American and East Coast leagues at 18 or 19 years old. A European player has the possibility to play in these leagues at 18 and 19.

“This arrangement is not legal under the competition act.”

None of the allegations have been proven in court. The lawsuit must be certified by the courts to become a class-action. No statements of defence have been filed.

The AHL declined to comment, while a CHL spokesman said the league has not received the document.

None of the other organizations mentioned in the lawsuit immediately provided a comment.

Mohr played 265 games in the WHL for the Edmonton Oil Kings, Kamloops Blazers, Kelowna Rockets and Moose Jaw Warriors.

The winger spent the majority of the 2019-20 in the Alberta Junior Hockey League, but appeared in 18 games for the Rockets and Warriors.

The suit states Mohr and players like him are not represented by players’ associations and are not free to organize a group to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement for themselves.

The suit points to the structure of hockey in Europe and Russia, where pro clubs can sign young players to pro contracts and assign them to junior or reserve teams.

“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.

NHL teams pay bonus or “development” money to CHL clubs whose players are drafted, which the suit calls ”unlawful arrangements” between the defendants.

“This strategy is to keep the player in the CHL and the CHL wants to keep the player in the league to have the capacity to have this money,” Michaud said.

“The NHL and the CHL have an agreement together saying no player can play in an affiliate league, the AHL or ECHL. The players have no rights. They have no voice under this agreement.”

The trio of lawsuits the CHL recently settled were over claims CHL players are employees subject to employment legislation and were due back wages for minimum wage.

Governments in jurisdictions where CHL teams operate either amended legislation or stated their employment standards didn’t apply to major junior hockey players.

The settlements amounted to a total of $30 million. Class members were compensated based on length of time — full, half or quarter seasons — in their respective leagues.

The CHL has always considered major junior players, who typically range from 16 to 20 years old, student-athletes.

Players get money for out-of-pocket expenses, equipment, billeting and travel costs while on a CHL roster.

They’re also currently eligible for post-secondary scholarships, with each season spent in the league worth one year of tuition, books and compulsory fees.

The WHL, OHL and QMJHL said a combined 956 players collected $7 million in scholarships in the 2019-20 academic year.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 16, 2020.

The Canadian Press

NHL

Just Posted

(Advocate file photo)
Pastor, candidate under restraining order arrested for allegedly breaking COVID laws

CALGARY — A Calgary mayoral candidate who is under a restraining order… Continue reading

Pro-Palestinian protesters run from police following a demonstration in Montreal, Sunday, May 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Tensions flare at Israel-Palestinian demonstrations in Montreal, Toronto

Tensions ran high at competing demonstrations over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in both… Continue reading

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, then-vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, participates in a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. An expert in military affairs says the sudden departure of the  general in charge of Canada's vaccine rollout is unlikely to have any impact on the high-profile program. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Canada to get 4.5M vaccine doses as questions swirl around immunization effort

OTTAWA — Canada is set to receive a large infusion of COVID-19… Continue reading

Israelis take cover as a siren sounds a warning of incoming rockets fired from the Gaza Strip, in Ashkelon, southern Israel, Sunday, May 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Heidi Levine)
Israeli strikes hit Gaza tunnels as diplomats work for truce

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — The Israeli military unleashed a wave… Continue reading

John Guise is seen at 4 weeks and one day after his birth, weighing two pounds and three ounces, in hospital in Hamilton, Ont., in an Aug. 1 1979, handout photo. Canadian researchers who've tracked a group of men who were born prematurely at a weight of less than one kilogram are finding they tend to age more quickly than male babies who aren't born prematurely. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-John Guise, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Boys born prematurely and very small age faster as men, study suggests

Canadian researchers who tracked a group of men who were born prematurely… Continue reading

Calgary Flames players celebrate the team's overtime win against the Vancouver Canucks during an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, May 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Lindholm OT winner gives Flames 6-5 win over Canucks despite blowing four-goal lead

VANCOUVER — In a game with little to play for besides pride,… Continue reading

In this photo taken on May 13, 2021, Russia's performer, Manizha, smiles during an interview after rehearsing at the Eurovision Song Contest at Ahoy arena in Rotterdam, Netherlands. For many, the stage and global television audience of millions is a chance to express messages of inclusion, strength and positivity. Manizha has a message of strength for women in her song whose lyrics include the lines: "Every Russian Woman. Needs to know. You're strong enough to bounce against the wall." (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
Eurovision Song Contest returns despite coronavirus pandemic

ROTTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) — Pounding beats? Check. Uplifting lyrics? Check. Huge, backlit… Continue reading

Serena Williams of the United States returns the ball to Italy's Lisa Pigato during their match at the Emilia Romagna Open tennis tournament, in Parma, Monday, May 17, 2021. Serena Williams earned her first victory in more than three months by beating 17-year-old qualifier Lisa Pigato 6-3, 6-2 in the first round of the Emilia-Romagna Open. Williams accepted a wild-card invitation for the Parma tournament after losing her opening match at the Italian Open last week. (AP Photo/Marco Vasini)
Serena Williams posts 1st victory in more than 3 months

PARMA, Italy (AP) — Serena Williams earned her first victory in more… Continue reading

In this Oct. 21, 2014 file photo, people pass an AT&T store in New York's Times Square. AT&T will combine its media operations that include CNN HBO, TNT and TBS in a $43 billion deal with Discovery, the owner of lifestyle networks including the Food Network and HGTV. The deal announced Monday, May 17, 2021, would create a separate media company as households increasingly abandon cable and satellite TV, looking instead at Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Facebook, TikTok and YouTube. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
AT&T, Discovery join media brands as cord-cutting encroaches

NEW YORK (AP) — AT&T will combine its massive media operations that… Continue reading

The Minnesota Wild celebrate their overtime victory over the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of a first-round NHL hockey playoff series Sunday, May 16, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)
Eriksson Ek’s OT goal lifts Wild past Vegas 1-0

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Joel Eriksson Ek’s goal at 3:20 of overtime… Continue reading

Toronto Blue Jays' Lourdes Gurriel Jr., celebrates after hitting a double against the Philadelphia Phillies during the third inning of a baseball game Sunday, May 16, 2021, in Dunedin, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)
Girardi, Segura have confrontation as Phils lose to Jays

Blue Jays 10 Phillies 8 DUNEDIN, Fla. (AP) — The injury-depleted Philadelphia… Continue reading

New York Islanders' Kyle Palmieri (21) returns to the bench after scoring during the first period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh, Sunday, May 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Palmieri’s OT winner lifts Isles by Penguins 4-3 in Game 1

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The New York Islanders brought Kyle Palmieri home at… Continue reading

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions hearing to examine an update from Federal officials on efforts to combat COVID-19, Tuesday, May 11, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool via AP)
Fauci says pandemic exposed ‘undeniable effects of racism’

ATLANTA (AP) — The immunologist who leads the COVID-19 response in the… Continue reading

Most Read