B.C. government takes potshot at junior hockey players after lobbying by team owners

By Rachel H Roy

Last February, I blogged about whether or not the B.C. government was off-side when it exempted major junior hockey players from the protections and minimum standards contained in the Employment Standards Act. I also mentioned the ongoing class actions against the Canadian Hockey League and its teams (the “CHL”) on behalf of junior hockey players, alleging that the CHL conspired to force young players into signing contracts that violated minimum wage laws.

Today, the Vancouver Sun revealed the results of FOI requests related to behind-the-scenes lobbying by Western Hockey League officials in Kelowna, Kamloops, Cranbrook, Prince George, Vancouver and Victoria, which included letters addressed to Premier Christy Clark and cabinet. According the Sun, the teams claimed they might have to close without government intervention.

The CHL boasts more than nine million fans attended its games last season. The CHL is also the world’s largest development hockey league, with 52 Canadian and eight American teams participating in the Ontario Hockey League, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and Western Hockey League (which includes the five B.C. region teams mentioned above).

Back in 2014, in relation to attempts to unionize major junior hockey players, Jerry Dias, Unifor’s president, told CBC’s The Current that the relationship between the CHL and junior players is exploitative and ridiculous:  

“…You have players that, depending on where they play, for example, in Quebec, they make $35 a week. If you play in Western Canada, you make $50 a week. If you play in Ontario, you don't get paid at all...”

Last season, tickets to Vancouver Giants home games at the Pacific Coliseum sold for between $15.50 and $24.50 and they were expected to play 36 homes games this season. Attendance at Vancouver Giants’ games last season has been estimated at 5169 people on average. Even at the lowest ticket price, this suggests gross ticket sales for home games of over $2.8 million – and that’s not counting revenue generated from away games. Apparently, the Giants also leased the Pacific Coliseum on a break-even basis.

The other teams in the Western Hockey League’s B.C. Region also sell thousands of tickets per game.

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