CANADIAN HOCKEY LEAGUE PLAYERS MAY FINALLY HAVE JUSTICE
I have learned over the years to make sure that I am proud of what I write. The columns have disappeared from the paper but those who are interested can at the click of their mouse check out Google and voila there it is for all to read.
This week I received an e mail from Randy and Glen Gumbley who are the founders of the Canadian Hockey League’s class action law suit.
In my news paper column, "Junior A vs NCAA" I compared the two avenues of playing the game focusing on the pluses and minuses of both programs. In my humble opinion the NCAA proved to be the best way for a young hockey player to play and learn at high level while receiving his university education.
The brothers wrote me that: "for several years we have been protecting the rights of Junior hockey players within the CHL and have been pressuring the teams to make numerous changes to their business models and in the way they treat their players."
The Gumbley brothers asked me if I would: " consider their invitation and help the young talented athletes who are being exploited for financial gain on such a massive level"
The same evening I received a call from the brothers to introduce me to an excellent video "Hockey Nightmare." via www,you tube.com. Hockey is supposed to be a game for the thousands of young men but make sure you are not hustled into believing that your son is going to be one of the .015% players who get a chance to play in the NHL.
The brothers with the help of Jerry Dias, the Head of the Union "Unifor", have commenced a class action suit against the Canadian Hockey League whose estimated gross earnings last year were $400 million. The class action suit is asking for $180 million in compensation for the owners violating the Canadian minimum wage laws to at least pay the minimum wage requirements to their employees (the hockey players) who have been drafted to their designated teams.
The players are not students, but are rather employees, who are expected to play/ practice to make the team a profitable enterprise. The players earn on average $50.00 a week for playing two games and practicing for three days a week. The indentured young hockey players can be dealt like a deck of cards at the pleasure of the owners of the teams.
Having counseled dozens of "Junior A" team players at Saunder’s Secondary school their high school education was not their raison d’etre to be in school. Very long road trips to one of the twelve Ontario teams from east to west and all the way to Sudbury the players sleep on the bus; missing their classes it hard for the players to do well with their studies.
The video was sure a wake up call for me and I hope the young players and their parents to see the reality of playing the game that they may love. Sadly, in the end the game still revolves around money.
I watched the entire video including an episode with a young hockey player who is called into the coach’s office to be told in the middle of the season that he was going to be traded. Not bad he thought: he was going home to PEI to play for a team two hours from his home. A few minutes later he was called back into the office to learn of the change of venue. He had been traded to a team in Chicoutimi Quebec and he was expected to throw his equipment into a black plastic garbage bag and be ready to play the same evening.
He cried after realizing that "he was yesterday’s garbage and he was to be thrown away." The video ends with the sad news that the young man whose future should have been one of happiness and a promising future ends with the tragic news that he was found dead in his truck.
It is my sincere hope that Randy and his brother Glenn are successful in their law suit against the Canadian Hockey League. There has to be positive changes for our young hockey players for whom the vast majority will never ever earn a dime playing for the NHL.
The player’s education should be emphasized with the team who drafted them to keep them on the roster for the school year and not send them packing part way through the year so there is some continuity to their education. How about teacher tutors on the busses to make sure that the high school students who play for the league do not get behind in their studies?
Pay the players at least a minimum wage so that they can have some resources to help pay for their education when they leave the game. I know that the teams are supposed to have scholarships for the former player’s s for one year of college/university tuition for each year they played but it isn’t always feasible. Because of the demanding focus on hockey too many of our young men’s secondary school averages do not make the cut offs to attend university or college.
We all know that the letters NFL are supposed to stand for the "National Football League." The football players describe their allotted playing time as: "Not for Long". Everyone in due time gets hurt and how long one plays often depends for the most part on the severity of their injuries.
I suspect that Randy and Glenn are not going to be appreciated by the league’s owners and coaches for speaking up for the young players who up to now have had no voice.
Mom/dad please take the one hour to view the documentary "Hockey Nightmare in Canada."
Len Lesser is a education/career counselor in Dorchester Ont.