A class-action lawsuit filed in federal court in Manhattan, New York argues that the NHL and CHL violate antitrust law. The suit – filed in part by the North American Division of the World Association of Icehockey Players Union (WAIPU) – argues that teenagers are, “involuntarily drafted, poorly compensated, and completely controlled” by CHL teams, crediting the exclusivity between the OHL, WHL, and QMJHL and full-time schedules for players as ways players are exploited. It further adds that the NHL supports these challenges through its annual payments to the leagues and specific parts of the NHL-CHL Transfer agreement.
The CHL told the Associated Press, “We have just been made aware of the complaint, filed by WAIPU, an organization that has not been certified to represent any CHL players… Until we can thoroughly review the document, we are unable to provide comment as to the legitimacy of its contents.” The NHL has so far declined to comment.
There is currently no collective bargaining agreement between CHL teams and players – something that the NHL, AHL, and ECHL all have. The nature of the suit draws comparison to recent movements from minor league baseball players and NCAA athletes, who have pushed for expanded supports and compensation. The NHL and CHL did not receive advanced notice of the suit before it was filed on Wednesday morning. University of Illinois labor law professor Michael LeRoy commented on the international status of the suit – which targets juniors teams in Canada and the U.S. – saying, “They’re doing business in the United States, and the end users of the most successful products are going to be, presumably, NHL hockey players both in the U.S. and Canada, I don’t think that’s a problem.”