As The Major Junior World Turns: CHLPA Document Leaked, CHL Offers First Public Statement

Is this real life? That’s the question I keep asking myself with each new revelation regarding the fledgling Canadian Hockey League Players Association.

With each revelation comes more mystery surrounding the CHLPA. (Photo: USofH)

Brandon Sudeyko of “In The O Radio Show” obtained the document the CHLPA has sent to an unknown number of Canadian Hockey League players. The document was acquired from one of the players that received it. The document informs players about the benefits of a CHLPA and unveils its proposed constitution. It can be read in full here.

There aren’t any shocking revelations beyond what has already come out in the press, however it is interesting to note the language within and where the CHLPA plans to acquire the funds from to reach its goals of stronger education packages and increased player benefits.

Coming up after the jump, a look at some of the most intriguing pieces from the document as well as a look at the CHL’s first public statement on the matter.

You are the future. Control the path and pave the way for you and for those who will follow in your footsteps.

That’s the first line of the document acquired by Sudeyko, the first few pages of which amount to a recruiting tool.

The organization seems to be trying to convince the players that there is something wrong with their current situation. While there is reason to think a lot of the kids who play major junior are getting a raw deal, the players themselves may not necessarily think so.

As mentioned in a post Tuesday, the CHLPA’s most noble of aims is attempting to strengthen the CHL’s education package, which varies from league to league and player to player and comes with limitations that have kept many players from ever accessing it.

However, the CHLPA not only want to strengthen said packages, the organization wants to assume management of them, administering the education benefits themselves per a Collective Bargaining Agreement that does not and may never exist.

The CHLPA will seek dues of $2 per player, which isn’t much to ask. Certainly reasonable for a teenager to offer up. However, it is where the additional funds for the CHLPA will come from that create even more uncertainty about the realism of this organization.

So not only does the CHLPA want to dip into the CHL’s revenue stream, they want a piece of the gigantic Hockey Canada pie.

Keep in mind, Hockey Canada, like USA Hockey, is a not-for-profit entity. While Hockey Canada hauls in large sums of money, it is reinvested in a series of programs from national teams to grassroots hockey to its own operating costs.

The World Junior Championship, when held in Canada, is a huge moneymaker for the event organizer and Hockey Canada.

The 2012 WJC, held in Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta, made a $22 million profit, while the 2010 tournament in Saskatoon and Regina, Saskatchewan, made $15 million, both figures according to the Canadian Press.

From 2012, Hockey Canada received $9 million total from that event, the rest staying with the tournament organizers. HC sent $6 million to the CHL, while $3 million will eventually go toward future tournaments. Other portions of the $22 million profit went to local hockey organizations in Alberta.

“Any and all Hockey Canada events” would likely include things like the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, in which many CHL 16-year-olds play every year. That event has had varying degrees of success generating revenue. In 2010, the event held in Timmins, Ontario, resulted in a $250,000 profit, all of which was re-distributed to local programs and businesses.

Hockey Canada and more specifically, the WJC is the big ole cash cow, which is exactly why the CHLPA sees an opportunity.

Gilles Lupien, speaking on behalf of the CHLPA as a consultant for the organization with CBC radio, talked about how much money the tournament makes and how none of it goes back to the players who participate in various forms. Lupien talked about how the players’ parents have to pay their own way and the players themselves don’t get paid for playing for Team Canada. It was unclear if the former NHLer thought that money should come from the CHL or from hockey Canada.

Either way, getting paid to participate on a national team? Not even the NHL players who represent their countries in the IIHF Men’s World Championship receive compensation for playing. It seems outlandish to suggest that players be paid by non-profit organizations for representing their country in international competition.

If that’s why the CHLPA wants to seek money from Hockey Canada, then they have another thing coming.

There’s also the possibility that the organization would attempt to gain additional funds from Hockey Canada because many CHL member teams may not be able to foot the bill for this entity’s potential demands.

However, attempting to take on the CHL and Hockey Canada together could lead to disastrous results for the CHLPA.

Lupien’s comments, which started strong but ended up devolving into some absurdity, weren’t the only missteps for the CHLPA in recent days, however.

As Neate Sager of Y! Sports Canada’s Buzzing the Net points out, the CHLPA may not even have a full understanding of the landscape they are trying to alter. Several factual errors appeared in a statement from the CHLPA on its official Facebook page, which Sager pointed out in his piece at BTN.

Additionally, as Sunaya Sapurji, also of Y! Sports Canada reported, this could end up taking years to ever come to fruition as an entire court process would have to play. In the end, this all may be more trouble than it’s worth for the CHLPA.

Then there’s still the fact that while the CHLPA claims 99.9 percent of the players in the CHL are aware of the organization’s existence. Many players have come forward saying they aren’t. Some of those players that admit they have been contacted have come away unimpressed.

From Sapurji:

Another player in the CHL said he, too, was contacted about joining the union.

“I was given a hazy call last week about joining the CHLPA,” said the player, who did not want his name used. “(They) then followed up with an unprofessional email with no credentials.”

He didn’t bother to follow up.

These latest revelations only continue to raise questions. One of the biggest being, if the players have to be coerced to join a union that many seemingly do not feel is necessary, why go forward?

The CHLPA may feel that it knows what’s best for the players better than the players do and they might actually be right. That said, who is driving this bus? Why are they driving it and are their intentions as noble as they’re leading us to believe?

The CHL finally released a statement in regards to the CHLPA, stating that the league has not been contacted by the CHLPA, which is not surprising. Also from the statement:

We are of the opinion that no junior hockey league in the world has made more changes to support the best interest of its players both on and off the ice as the CHL.  This is evidenced by our drug education and anti-doping program, our concussion management program, numerous charitable programs and our Respect in Sport program as developed by Sheldon Kennedy in the area of player abuse.

In addition, the CHL provides North America’s best player scholarship program, funded through the league’s ownership.

The league is doing what it can to explain that there probably isn’t a need for a player’s union. While the CHL has made significant gains in each of the programs it mentions, its claim to be North America’s best scholarship program is patently ridiculous, however accurate.

It is the best because its the only of its kind. There isn’t anything to compare it to. If you think there is anything remotely similar between the CHL’s education package and that offered by NCAA Division I institutions, you are kidding yourself.

Players get to choose which school they go to, based on who is offering them scholarships in the NCAA. The CHL education package places limitations on the institutions players can choose from geographically in order to enjoy a free education, in most cases. That is a major difference between the two, among so many others.

So sure, what the CHL currently offers is better than nothing, but calling it the best is a little disingenuous. For most players, it isn’t going to be enough.

However, David Branch did offer an incredibly interesting nugget of information at the end of his statement, attempting to put a bullet in the CHLPA.

Our league is comprised of 60 teams, all of which operate as individual corporate entities.  Given this structure, any organization drive would be required to be at an individual team level.

Based on what Branch is saying, if players were to unionize, there would have to be 60 separate unions to deal with each individual club (I think). With my limited knowledge of labor laws, I can only take the prez at his word, but this complicates the whole thing even more for the CHLPA to ever achieve certification.

It is my opinion that players are in need of a third-party advocacy group. There are elements of their participation in CHL leagues that are unbalanced. The players may not even be aware of or care about that, even though they should.

However, with each misstep from the proposed CHLPA, all of which are being made in public in the crucial stages of its infancy, on top of the latest revelation included in the CHL’s statement, it is difficult to believe the CHLPA is the answer.

So again, I ask… Is this real life?

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About Chris Peters

Editor of The United States of Hockey. Contributor to CBSSports.com, USA Hockey Magazine and more. Former USA Hockey PR guy. Current Iowan.
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5 Responses to As The Major Junior World Turns: CHLPA Document Leaked, CHL Offers First Public Statement

  1. Lord Tunderin' says:

    “Players get to choose which school they go to, based on who is offering them scholarships in the NCAA. The CHL education package places limitations on the institutions players can choose from geographically in order to enjoy a free education, in most cases.”

    The only geographic limitation in the CHL agreement is the exclusion of US based schools from the equation, something easily overcome on a case-by-case basis.

    “If you think there is anything remotely similar between the CHL’s education package and that offered by NCAA Division I institutions, you are kidding yourself.”

    Right, books and tuition for each year played in the CHL vs. 1 year commitment(s) renewable at the school’s discretion.

    • Chris Peters says:

      What you are describing about tuition and books paid for each year played is true only of the WHL. Both the QMJHL and OHL have differing educational policies.

      The QMJHL has a cap on the amount a player can receive as outlined here: http://www.chl.ca/uploads/assets/CHL_EN_SITE/EngEducationPolicyAugust.pdf

      The OHL offers differing amounts of money to players based on their draft status.

      Additionally, while NCAA scholarships are renewable each year, I have yet to see a single player have his scholarship revoked prior to graduation for any reason other than a gross violation of conduct or an inability to maintain academics.

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  4. Pops Bents says:

    How will they get around this law http://www.lni.wa.gov/WorkplaceRights/TeenWorkers/Hours/default.asp which will most likely affect four teams if the organize?

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