Playing Jr. ’til You’re 24?!?

Sam Berg, former CHLer has filed a class action lawsuit against the league
claiming he (and the 1300 other CHL players) was underpaid while he played in
the league, when he says underpaid, he’s talking about being paid below minimum
wage.

The CHL has always been looked at as an amateur hockey league, it’s the
league that you play in if you want to get to the NHL.  WHL, OHL, QMJHL, these
are the leagues that make up the CHL.  It has a bantam draft where players (14
years of age) are selected by these CHL teams and added to their rosters.  The
player does not have to play in the league, but if they choose to play, they
play under the team they are drafted by unless they are released or traded to a
different team under the CHL umbrella.  There has always been a decision to be
made for the majority of these players, albeit some shorter than others, and the
decision is to either play in the CHL, or play Tier ll Junior and still retain
their eligibility to play in the NCAA under an athletic
scholarship.

The
CHL and NCAA have had a long standing battle over the eligibility of players,
because the NCAA being a scholastic enterprise, do not allow anyone that has
played professionally to be involved in any of the athletic programs. As it
stands right now, if a player is on the roster for an inter-squad game with a
CHL team, they lose one year of eligibility, if said player plays the entire
year, they still lose only that one year of eligibility to play in the NCAA. 
Coincidently, the NCAA has a 4 year window for players under scholarship and the
CHL’s average length of playing time is 4 years.  Most of you know this, but I
want it to be front of mind as we move along with this.

Mr.
Berg is claiming players are underpaid at an amateur level; that depends on what
is considered ‘pay’.  In its most basic form, it’s receiving compensation for
labour/work.  According to a posting in Yahoo Answers from 2012 (https://ca.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100815102749AAcKHNn),
here’s what players in the CHL get as part of their compensation for playing
hockey in the league:
All
players in the QMJHL will be alotted $1657/mo for the 2010-11 season 
All players in the OHL will be alotted
$1593.21/mo for the 2010-11 season 
All players in the WHL will be allotted $1601/mo for
the 2010-11 season 

The differences are due to the cost of
living. 

Players are paid monthly in accordance with Canadian tax laws
(pay frequency determines EI and CPP rates and monthly pay minimizes the
rate). Players are required to purchase their own equipment. Only pants, socks,
jerseys, and gloves are provided for uniform purposes as dictated by the CHL.
(Sticks are provided by league
sponsor)

How much a player actually receives in money is
determined by how far a player lives from his home team….so a player who lives
in the same town as his team will receive less actual cash as the billet
allotment is not paid out. 

The CHL is determined to be an amateur sports
league under Canadian Law, and this determination is supported by Hockey Canada
(enacted in 1973 as the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association), under Canadian
Law, no amateur athlete is permitted to receive ‘bonus’ money. Under the
articles creating all three CHL Leagues, any money
given to a player in excess of the agreed allotment that is not for living or
educational purposes
will result in expulsion of the player and team from
the league in which they are playing. 

So, that being said, is Sam Berg to blame for not getting a better
contract?  Not necessarily, but if anything should come of this lawsuit, it
should be fair for everyone across the board.  Here’s what I
propose:

Players that enter the league under the age of 18 will be subject to the
current rules set up by the CHL (or close to under the current agreement). 
Costs of food/transportation/housing/equipment will be covered by the club. 
Each player will receive $100 (non-taxable) per-diem/week during the
season.
Players
that are 18 years of age (either entering the league, or coming of age in the
league) will be entered into a semi-professional contract with their club
totaling no less than $25,000/season and no more than $40,000/season (season
consisting of the day training camp opens to the end of league playoffs).  Cost
of equipment and per-diem during road trips will be covered by the club. 
Players over the age of 18 will be entitled to a percentage of the merchandise
that bears their name or likeness.

HERE’S
WHERE IT GETS INTERESTING:
Players
that play will not be given Canadian University rights for the seasons they play
after the age of 18.  The # of seasons played under the age of 18 will be
reciprocated in good faith for the same amount of year paid in a Canadian
University.
Players that play in the league for both their 19 and 20 year old seasons,
will have the option to play in the league until they are 24 years of age inside
of that calendar year.  The contract will extend with no more or less than the
previous agreement at the time of their 18 year old agreement.  No player may
enter the league after the age of 19 years of age.
Players that have been selected in the NHL entry draft and have not been
selected to play on the teams roster in the 19 or 20 year old year will be
returned to their junior club.  If they are over the age of 20, the team has the
option to send the player to their AHL affiliate but not back to their Junior
club.
Any
player that steps on the ice for their junior club in anything more than
training camp (inter squad/exhibition/league match) after turning 18 will lose
their entire eligibility into the NCAA.  Any player under the age of 18 will
have the option to enter the NCAA with no penalty.
 

This makes the line very clear between the CHL and the NCAA once and for
all.  It’s a benefit for both leagues, as the NCAA has the potential to take a
player with 2 years experience in the CHL at the age of 18, or instead take a
player who spent 3-4 years in Tier ll who may be upwards of 21 years old.  Which
is kind of the point of bringing this up.  There are players who never reach
their full potential when they come of age, and others that are late bloomers
and completely miss an opportunity to play pro hockey because they were
overlooked once they joined a league like the East Coast League, Central,
etc.

This
also allows players who were not selected in the draft to play a few more years
of hockey and develop their game a little further while making some actual money
while doing it.  It makes for an easier transition into ‘real life’ for some of
these players who (let’s be honest) don’t have an effing clue what to do once
hockey is over.
Does
it need some tweaking?  Of course it does.  I’m not a lawyer first of all, and
second of all I wrote this while sitting at my desk eating Spitz (the new Spicy
Sweet Chili… which are lovely btw).  But I think we can all agree that they
league is probably making too much money and the players; not enough.  So a
happy medium should be reached in the future.  As far as Mr. Berg is concerned…
Go to college and play some more hockey, take what is offered to you and do it
with a smile on your face that you might have sparked a change for the better in
years to come for the players, but as of right now, you’re owed exactly what
you’ve received.
#GoJetsGo

Wheeler
(section 217)
  • SavardianSpinorama

    PS. My opinion is Mr. Berg is that he’s nothing more than a shit disturber and an attention seeker. According to hockeyDB, he played a total of 8 games for Niagra Ice Dogs of the OHL. Hardly a guy who should be representing the greater good of the players in the league.

  • SavardianSpinorama

    This is very educational.

    Does anyone know what “under the table” bonuses that the junior players might receive? Such as free equipment?

    I know a buddy of mine received plenty of “perks” that can’t be discussed on here..

  • McRib

    “Only pants, socks, jerseys, and gloves are provided for uniform purposes as dictated by the CHL. (Sticks are provided by league sponsor)”

    Disagree with this statement completely you may need to check your facts, as I have at least a dozen friends who had 4-5 year careers in the WHL. Players get as much free gear as they want (unless you are a fighter for the most broke CHL franchise in history, even then you are just limited to how many pairs of skates, gloves, etc you can get), whoever says differently doesn’t know a thing. If a Top. 9 player wants three pairs of skates a year, no questions asked ($850 x 3 = $2,250 Value). Goalies get two sets of pads a season minimum ($1,500 x 2 = $3,000). Players get free room and board with Billiet Parents. Billets also get a monthly stipend to provide each player with an endless supply of food. Players also get major food discounts at stores such as Subway (50%+ off cards, etc) to help out financially. They also get an additional per diem when on the road and free hotels/meals. You honestly have a hard time spending money playing in the CHL, I know guys who worked decent summer jobs and just banked it ($10,000+ per summer) and had additonal spending money for college.

    I have also had many friends who have gone the NCAA route and must say the CHL Education is faaaarrr superior to the NCAA Scholarship. CHL Education packages are guaranteed if you play one game as a 15-16 year old you get a full year tuition, you don’t even have to play for the school (injury free), you could go to Yale if you wanted to (Most NCAA Teams only give out 10+ Full Scholarships per team the rest are only Half Scholarship or no Scholarship – see most ECAC Teams).

    If you then play for a CIS Team after your WHL career you also get an additional $7,000-10,000 from the CIS institution for spending money to go along with your free tuition and books provided by the CHL. I have a couple close friend that played games at 15 years old, which means that after doing some schooling while in the CIS (free when you’re in the league) they were able to get a bachelors’ degree in three years and money ($30,000+) towards two out of three years of Law School, MBA, etc.

    Anyone complaining about the CHL experience is out of their minds!!! Where else can a 16-20 year old you get free rent, free food (or discounted when you eat out on own), spending money for clothes, free hockey gear, free education (plus spending money if you play CIS), a chance to play Pro and make millions, etc?!?! Everyone I know who played WHL and then went CIS graduated debt free with at least one degree and an unreal resume (companies love to hire former CHL players), I wish I could say the same about myself… CHL players get treated like gods, on and off the ice.

    • McRib

      Yes, A CHLer could theoretically go to Yale, BUT…
      They will only receive the amount of tuition that the post-secondary institution closest to their home town is. Therefore, if you’re from Alberta, you might get up to $10,000 towards the cost of tuition. Yale tuition is $45,000 per year. U of A medicine is $15,000 in tuition.

      • McRib

        Correct, but CHL American players are allowed to base their tuition off the highest In-State University. So for example someone from Connecticut thinking about going to the QMJHL would get a much larger education package (usually $150,000-250,000) to compensate for the higher tuition in their home State. I guess that’s what I was referring to when I mentioned Yale, should have been clear.

        But let’s be frank why would a Canadian kid not want to play another 4-5 years of CIS Hockey and get additional spending money on the side. I have actually heard of a couple of Western Canadian kids going to Arizona State to party for four years, but they were not major braniacs (to put it mildly). I know some might argue, but outside of “prestige” U of A or UBC is as good or close to being as good as any Ivy League School in terms of Education. I went to Queens and had a friend at Cornell and it was an identical curriculum with all of the same reading material, most of our textbooks were co-written by our professors and theirs. And like I mentioned before most NCAA Ivy League Schools don’t give out Full Scholarships, they give out “Education Assistance” which is usually partial money as well, outside of top recruits. I know for a fact that the Private Colleges like Union & Colgate don’t give out any Full Scholarships, its all Education Assistance so if your parents make decent money, nothing for you.

  • beloch

    There’s a deeper problem this lawsuit is trying to address that runs far beyond the hockey world. In academia, grad students are used as cheap labour. They’re given TA contracts that are actually classified as “scholarships” and, similar to the CHL, require them to provide skilled labour at far lower rates than minimum wage. Those same students are simultaneously pressured into working extremely long hours on research while also taking courses. Once a student is a couple years into a PHD program they can be strung along for several more years at a ridiculous wage thanks to the big carrot of graduation. A PHD student within a year or two of graduation will bear almost anything for fear of throwing years of work away. Ask any North American PI if his/her group could remain competitive without cheap student labour and they won’t even have to hesitate before telling you “no”.

    Outside of academia, unpaid “internships” are becoming more and more common, especially with companies that are considered impressive on a resume or desirable to work for. Companies and institutions have realized that the young can scrape by on sub-human wages and will do almost anything to get a step up on their peers. Experience is now considered to be a part of remuneration. NHL hopefuls are no different.

    The reality is that “paying your dues” in this fashion does actually pay off. Yes, a NHL hopeful, grad student, or other young professional could make more working at a McJob, but that McJob won’t let them progress towards the kind of job they actually want. The CHL is like university for technical professionals, grad school for academics, or unpaid internships for management types. Well, perhaps it’s a bit more like liberal arts college in terms of the likelihood of payoff… Let’s face it, the odds of making it all the way to the NHL aren’t very good!

    So, could one lawsuit fundamentally change the “paying your dues” mechanic for hockey? I find it to be extremely unlikely. No matter how disgruntled Sam Burg and others like him are, NHL hopefuls will continue to line up for a shot at the NHL. The CHL would have to be legally compelled to increase pay or, alternatively, publicly shamed into it. Both of these possibilities are exceedingly unlikely. Amateur league status and classifying the pay players do receive as something akin to scholarships will likely give them a legal out. The public, who in large proportion have “paid their dues” at some point and who view being payed anything to play a game as a privilege are likely to be less than sympathetic.

    I agree that finding ways to provide a basic living wage to people “paying their dues” would be a good thing, but it’s a huge and intractable problem. I honestly don’t know where to start.

  • beloch

    Putting aside the idea of playing junior until 24, what happens to the scholarships if a player at 20 decides to play say 2 years pro, taking their shot. I ask because I heard that they can loose their eligibility to their scholarship unless they go stait to CIS. If this is true a simple solution would seem to allow say a 5 year window to begin your education. Just a question and a thought.

    • McRib

      You are correct if you sign a Pro Contract – NHL/AHL Deal (3 Years in length) you forfeit your CIS Education Package. You are however allowed to play one year of Pro (AHL, ECHL, etc) before going to school to see if a Legitmate Pro Contract comes up. Obviously if you decide to quit hockey or get injuried during your three year pro tenure your signing bonus alone would be more than enough to pay for University ($100,000+). Once again if you choose to play CIS you would still be eligable for some tuition saving as well. Jared Aulin did this a few years back. Most CIS players now will get there degree on the WHL/CIS dimes, than take a shot at the ECHL (or better), but the CHL does give that year of grace to allow players to take a shot at Pro before going to CIS. Kevin King, Giffen Nyren and Walker Wintoneak on U of C all played a year of Pro before going to CIS. Giffen Nyren actually siuted up for 15 Games with Abbotsford.

      Honestly the only thing negative I have ever heard of the CHL education packages is that the QMJHLs was not as rock solid as the WHL/OHL.. I have heard stories of needing to play a certain amount of games first (200+) to get a scholarship in the QMJHL and some teams holding those players out so they didn’t reach it. But that was years ago and like I said the WHL/OHL are rock solid. If you play one game a year for five years, you still get five years tuition. The minute you sign a WHL player contract you get a year I believe as well, even if you don’t play right away for that season. So if you sign at 16 and don’t play until 17 you still get five years.

  • beloch

    You would have 24 year old players playing a contact sport against 16 year olds? That sounds pretty dangerous. You also have to consider the other side of the coin. You only have so many spots available on a roster and obviously a 24 year old player will outplay a 16 year old kid. Seems to me that you would just have the problem of young kids never getting a shot instead of late bloomers never reaching full potential.

  • McRib

    Lmfao considering they get all you all said. Plus they get to be the “popular” kids even though most go no where and get to ef any girl they want. (Girls do anything and rich parents allow their daughters to become pieces of meat to these players). They get enough, now they want to be given more money. This is a absolute piss off. f@(!ing morons! I know I sound like a jealous fellow and believe me I am in a sense. But im more grateful ive become who I am and that is someone who feels smarter than most, trust me if we met in person you’d enjoy my company and Im genuine. But in saying I just hated seeing girls I liked being treatig that way in high school and hated seeing these ahoooles treated like movie stars when if they werent hockey players or well off. They would have No friends an be a scared punk like they are.

  • McRib

    Lmfao could care less what you dumbass f&@&s have to say or think. You’re morons like 90% of this world. This was my opinion just like your dumb ass opinion. I bet none of you are living your life the way you want so shut up and know I love my life more than you. Ppl actually respect in person unlike you. No one likes any of you hahahahahah fucking losers