by PuckStopsHere on 09/21/12 at 10:24 PM ET
With the NHL locked out it is a good time to look at what is going on in the other hockey leagues. There is a significant story in the CHL that has been ongoing for a while. The Windsor Spitfires were punished in August for undisclosed recruitment violations. At that time they were fined $400,000 and forced to forfeit their next three first round draft choices and their two second round draft picks in 2015 and 2017. This offence has been appealed and it has now been announced that Windsor will only be fined $250,000 and lose their first round draft picks in 2013 and 2016 as well as their 2015 and 2017 second round picks.
What we are not hearing about the story is any specifics of what happened. It has long been alleged that some CHL teams are paying significant sums of money to NCAA and potential NCAA players. This violates the CHL rules where players are not supposed to be paid. CHL players get a living stipend of $50/week, which is chump change. It is also such a "high" amount of money that the NCAA considers CHL players to be professionals and thus ineligible to play in the NCAA in the future. Junior hockey is big business in Canada. Teams can make significant amounts of money - especially when they are winning - and they are not allowed to spend it on players. The players get paid far below what the open market would allow as they play in search of a professional hockey career. Many of these players will not get their professional career and are exploited in the process. They graduate from the CHL at age 20, in many cases without finishing high school and without professional hockey. There is a scholarship program available for these players to pursue further education but it is time sensitive and often these players are not ready to immediately pursue them.
It is financially in teams best interests to pay under the table to bring in quality players if that improves their financial position by improving their position in the standings. The players are being exploited n the current system. Perhaps it would be better if they were paid.
That doesn't change the fact that it appears that windsor broke the rules. What is alarming about this story is the details of exactly how Windsor broke the rules are unknown. We have not been told which players have been paid. We have not bee told how much they have been paid. We have not been told any evidence for this. We do not know which years these offences took place in. We do know that Windsor won the 2009 and 2010 Memorial Cup. They had been highly successful in recent history. Taylor Hall, Adam Henrique and Cam Fowler are players who came through the Windsor system. Might these be players who were paid under the table?
The CHL wants to have their cake and eat it too. They want to punish Windsor for their recruitment violations without discussing what those recruitment violations were because the details will be a messy glimpse into the seedy underside of junior hockey and may call into question some recent Memorial Cup victories. They want to continue their policy of exploiting teenage players with an NHL dream and punish those who flagrantly break it without letting us in on the circumstances of what happened.
Right now the NHL players are fighting with the league about how much they should be paid. Perhaps the CHL players should be doing this too. It is clear that a CHL player is worth more than $50 a week. Their being significantly underpaid creates the situation for teams like Windsor to cheat the system. It shows how flawed the current system is. I think it would be very informative to shine a light on the reality of what is going on CHL players. If that information came out I think there would be a strong push to change the system. Until then, the CHL wants to enforce its rules by fining and punishing Windsor without telling us what they did. I think the reality of what they did and how common it is will shock most hockey fans.
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