More than 1,300 junior hockey players in the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) could soon be unionized.
The union, dubbed the Canadian Hockey League Players Association (CHLPA), has been in the works for more than 14 months, according to Derek Clarke, a spokesman for the proposed union, and has more than 60 per cent support from CHL players.
“Players and agents feel this is long overdue,” Clarke told the Windsor Star. “We’re hoping to get a positive reception from the CHL because this benefits kids and because it’s a positive step for education.”
He confirmed the union has chosen a board of directors, ratified a constitution, created a bargaining committee and selected regional directors. An executive director is expected to be chosen by the end of the week.
The CHLPA will be making certification applications this week to labour boards in Canada and the United States.
The CHL represents 60 teams in the Ontario Hockey League, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and the Western Hockey League. The union confirmed player representatives have been chosen for all 60 teams.
Clarke told the Star the union is pinpointing the CHL’s educational programs and its prime focus is on improving the educational packages currently available to players. The players have 12 to 18 months after playing their last junior game to execute their education packages, Clarke added. If they choose to pursue pro hockey, they forfeit that package.
“Why not have some type of assistance program in place for after hockey? That’s what we’re about,” he told the Star.
Junior players currently receive a $50-a-week stipend plus room and board, but Clarke says their intention isn’t to get the players more money. CHLPA studies conclude that an education fund worth anywhere from $9,000 to $15,000 could be provided for each player in the CHL, he says.
Gilles Lupien, a player agent and former Montreal Canadiens defenceman, told the Globe and Mail he supports the union.
“It’s not just about the money,” he said. “It’s a question of how the leagues are treating the kids, their education and all the travel that’s involved.”
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