Well, this news literally came out of nowhere, even though it was reported that a CHL Players Association was 14 months in the works. However, for most of the players it came out of nowhere as many of them professed no idea that this was even remotely considered.
As a full time teacher, I know fully well both the good and the bad of being a shop steward and a member of a union. This idea seems, to me, a tad far fetched to have any real impact on a CHL player. It is a well-known fact that CHL players are a source of cheap labour and the mechanisms of business have changed greatly over the years. Some CHL teams play in state of the art scaled down versions of NHL arenas. There is a national TV deal and a large number of regional channels has the CHL as one of the backbones of their programming schedule.
Still, when I see the typical OHL owner I do not exactly picture a hand wringing Montgomery Burns or an arrogant Donald Trump standing at the bow of the ship cracking the whip against an exploited hockey player. Yes, CHL players are compensated at meagre levels, one report stating that little has changed since Bobby Orr plied his trade for the Oshawa Generals. Also, they are expected to be faces of the community, going to schools, open skates, and open practices, among other obligations. All this is on top of attending school and practicing and playing 68 games a year. It is a grind, but the carrot at the end is a chance to be drafted to the best league in the world or to continue playing pro hockey in one of the many other leagues around.
Many players would give their right eye for that opportunity, regardless of the lack of compensation. They accept the grind and in many cases embrace the limelight of being a minor celebrity. What is not to like?
I do think there is a role for representation in the CHL, but not as far reaching as a full-fledged union, more like an ombudsmen who could deal with issues on a case by case bases. Plus, coaches and GM's already deal with media, agents, and parents. Now you want to add a union to that?
Personally, I would like to the CHL address the following issues with its players. Maybe it would not involve a full-fledged union negotiation, but certainly someone acting in the best interest of the players.
- No trade during the school year for high school aged players
- A schedule freeze at final exam time (the last week of January)
- a raise in compensation from the reported $50 to $125 per week
- Some sort of financial incentive for participation internationally (World Jr , Hlinka) and also for other marketing purposes (Video Games etc)
It is a noble idea with the well-spoken bi-lingual Georges Laracque as the head. I just cannot see a sustainable viability at this point.