Open letter to Premier Ford and cabinet ministers
Class counsel respond to the OHL with an open letter to the premier
Major junior hockey is big business, generating large revenues for most teams, while the devoted young hockey players who work their hearts out receive only a small “allowance”.
In 2016, a proposed class action was commenced against Canadian Hockey League, the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and all of the teams in the OHL on behalf of former and current major junior hockey players. It argues that the Standard Player Agreement all players sign is actually an employment contract, and that players are employees who are entitled to receive minimum wage and overtime pay, just like young people who work for other types of businesses.
The Ontario Superior Court of Justice certified the class action in April 2017. The defendants appealed that decision to the Divisional Court. The appeal will be argued in January.
In early November, the commissioner of the OHL sent an open letter to the Premier of Ontario and a cabinet minister, asking them to amend the Employment Standards Act, 2000 to “clarify” that junior hockey players are excluded from employment standards protections.
Of course, the Ontario courts are poised to provide that clarification if and when the class action is heard on its merits. The commissioner must be hoping that the premier can be persuaded to amend the ESA to preemptively exclude junior hockey players from its application. That way, even if the courts were to rule against the OHL, any remedy to which the players might be entitled would be severely restricted in scope, and team owners and the league would be able to continue to pay players a pittance in “allowance”.
Class counsel have responded with an Open letter to Premier Ford and Ministers Tibollo and Scott on behalf of the representative plaintiff and class members.