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Lawsuit Claims Canadian Junior Hockey Leagues Violate US Antitrust Laws

 |  February 14, 2024

A lawsuit filed in New York on Wednesday by the North American division of the World Association of Ice Hockey Players Unions has accused Canadian major junior hockey leagues of violating antitrust laws in the United States. The lawsuit targets the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) and its three major junior circuits, namely the Western Hockey League, Quebec Maritimes Junior Hockey League, and Western Hockey League, along with the NHL, named as a “co-conspirator.”

The lawsuit alleges that the leagues engage in collusion to restrict the negotiation powers of players, leading to systemic abuses such as artificially reducing compensation and conducting involuntary drafts. In these drafts, teams can obtain exclusive major junior rights of athletes without the presence of a collective bargaining agreement, significantly limiting players’ autonomy and earning potential.

While the allegations have been made, they are yet to be tested in court. The CHL responded to the lawsuit by stating that they had only become aware of the complaint on Wednesday and emphasized that the World Association of Ice Hockey Players Unions has not been certified to represent any players in its leagues. The league further stated that they cannot comment on the legitimacy of the lawsuit until they have thoroughly reviewed the document.

This legal action follows a previous $30-million settlement reached in Canada in 2020 between the CHL, its leagues, and players seeking back pay for minimum wage violations. However, the settlement faced obstacles when judges in Ontario, Quebec, and Alberta refused to sign off on the agreement. Their objection stemmed from concerns regarding the broad wording of the settlement, which they believed could potentially prevent players from pursuing other legitimate claims.

The lawsuit marks a significant development in the ongoing legal battles surrounding player compensation and rights within the CHL and its affiliated leagues. It underscores the growing scrutiny on the treatment of athletes in major junior hockey and the broader implications for labor rights and antitrust regulations in international sports organizations. As the case progresses, it is expected to shed further light on the dynamics between leagues, players, and governing bodies in the world of hockey.

Source: CA Sports Yahoo