When a young hockey player with dreams of playing the in the NHL hits their junior hockey days they generally have 2 options. Either they enter the CHL draft and hope to be picked up by one of the many teams or they head to University and hope to latch on to an NCAA squad. Both routes are capable for getting scouted by the NHL, but they aren’t always fair to the players. Whether it be riding buses or not getting paid, they have found lots to complain about. The CHL players appear to have had enough of the abuse and exploitation they take from the CHL and are ready to form their own CHLPA, similar to that of the NHLPA.
There was a failed attempt to unionize the players in Nova Scotia over a year ago and another failed attempt 2 years ago by Glenn Gumbley, but this time the Union and the CHL seems to be for real. They are meeting this week and hope to put a board of governors together shortly as they take advice from both current and former CHL players on what needs to be done going forward. Former QMJHL player Nicholas Pard is the one leading the way on the union. Pard played in the QMJHL up until 2011 before becoming a professional player in France.
Pard recalls his struggles from playing in the CHL where he was paid just $35 a week as a 16-year-old rookie working more than 40 hours a week through practising, travelling and playing for the Sea Dogs. He will also never see the education scholarship he earned because he chose to continue playing hockey overseas in France when his playing days in the CHL concluded.
Among the areas of interest for the CHL are player pay, health insurance and University restrictions.
Currently, a large majority of CHL players are either unpaid or paid as little as $35 a month for their efforts. Obviously not enough to survive and for families with multiple kids playing hockey, there is a major strain. In addition to the player pay issue, some players are being paid far more than others and the others don’t believe that is fair. Let’s say you have John Tavares on your junior team, you’re going to pay him a lot more than you would pay a Luke Adam. The players are hoping for more equality of pay among the players, so less under the table deals will happen.
The players would also like better university funding as they opt out of receiving any scholarships or financial help from American schools by playing in the CHL. The league and team of one of those players is supposed to set aside a certain amount of money to help pay for that young players University time once they graduate, but the players would like a little more backing in their education and a longer window to claim. A player must also claim their University money within 18 months of their CHL contract expiring of they will not receive their payment and the fine print on the contract often leaves many players high and dry. If a player choices to continue their career elsewhere in hopes of still making the NHL and later wants to tap into their University funding from their CHL days, they will not be able to.
Another issue that Pard is upset over is the fine print which is not properly explained to teenagers whose entire desire is to play in the NHL. At that point in a player’s career, they don’t care about their benefits, but if they don’t crack the NHL they certainly start to wonder where things went wrong.
There are a combined total of 60 teams that will need to be unionized and fall under the CHL umbrella. The Western Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, are the leagues that make up the Canadian hockey league with over 1300 young hockey players.
One of the biggest areas of concern for the union is the fact that most of current players in the CHL who are voicing their opinions on the new union rules, will be gone from the league and finished with their junior careers in a year or two before these new legislation’s have a chance to be implemented. With those players gone, and rules from two years ago in place, the players may still be getting the short end of the stick at the end of the day.
Due to threats of past unions hoping to make a CHLPA the CHL has changed some of their rules upping the monthly wage to $450 from $200, and agreeing to give each player $1,000 to go towards off-season training. However, in the long run, Pard and others on the CHLPA don’t believe the CHL is doing enough.