by PuckStopsHere on 11/06/12 at 09:57 PM ET
The NHL is locked out but it isn't the only hockey league with labor issues. The Canadian Hockey Leagues that make up the major junior system for the NHL have problems as well. The CHL is made up of the Western Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. It is a group of teenaged players. Many of whom hope to make the NHL and have a professional career. Most do not actually get there.
CHL players are poorly paid. They get a $50 weekly stipend and their team pays for the players' room and board. This is far less than their market value would be - especially among the top junior players. In fact there have been problems with CHL teams paying players under the table in order to better compete. The CHL does offer an educational scholarship for players. It comes with significant strings attached. Players have 18 months from the end of their junior careers to start their schooling and they are paid up to $3000 a year. This is not sufficient to cover tuition in more expensive institutions and tend to push players out of them.
The CHL players have a legitimate gripe. There are junior teams with multi-million dollar values who draw several thousand fans per game and they barely pay their players anything. These players give up their early teenage years when many of their cohort are attending post-secondary education and well on their way to a career. Those players who do not have a pro hockey career are behind other people their age in terms of career development.
The formation of the CHL union has not been a seamless one. Former NHLer Georges Laraque was chosen to be the spokesman for the CHLPA. He claims that his car has been tampered with and his life endangered. He is now going to step down as soon as a replacement can be found for him. Also stepping down is union spokesman Derek Clarke. A lot of dirt has been thrown to discredit Clarke.
The problem in the CHL is a legitimate one. It is questionable how much leverage players have to change the situation. They only spend a few years in junior hockey and in that time desperately want to make a significant impact in the minds of NHL scouts to get drafted. They don't want to lose a year to a strike. At the same time, those who don't make it into a pro hockey career (the vast majority of CHL players) are in a poor position when they get out of the league. They have their career progress slowed and limited financial reward for it. This is an issue that is going to be significant in the future if it is not solved. It has been swept under the carpet for far too long.
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