By Andrew McGilligan
The saga surrounding the proposed Canadian Hockey League Players Association has been anything but boring.
From former enforcers heading up the potential union to players seemingly in the dark to owners and league executives deriding its formation (the QMJHL issued a bizarre press release in which the league was referred to as a SCHOOL OF LIFE - all caps was used in the release - aimed at dispelling rumours and half-truths), it’s a weird time to be a fan of junior hockey.
While many have taken aim at the CHLPA’s tactics and questionable math, the proposed union did bring up a topic that bears more discussion: the time limit placed on players accessing education packages. Once the major topic of discussion regarding the proposed CHLPA, the time limit issue has been forced into the background by the slings and arrows of the defenders and detractors of the potential players union.
However, it’s an important topic that needs to be looked at outside of the confines of the union debate. Simply look at the situation regarding the education package time limit. I consider the education package as the player’s compensation for playing for his junior team. I know players get a stipend per week, but its peanuts and the real payment is the paid education.
If a player does not access these funds within a certain time frame, less than two years from playing in one of the CHL leagues (QMJHL, OHL, WHL), they lose the funding. In my opinion, they are essentially denied their wages.
Put it this way, if you go to work for a company you’re not doing so for free. The company agrees to pay you a salary for your work because that company is attempting to make a profit from your labour. If you leave that company, you don’t have to give back the wages you’ve earned.
No time limit should be placed on players to access the funds. The money should be set aside for when the players decide to use it. Some may never access it and other may do so ten years after playing in the junior ranks. The point is they’ve earned it and the leagues and teams should abide by it.
The CHL and the leagues that comprise it often talk about the high value placed in education in their system. It’s admirable that the league and teams want players to succeed on the ice a well as in the classroom. We’ve seen the commercials where past players talk about how their time in the CHL helped prepare them for careers after hockey and receiving their education is big part of that equation.
Union or no, the time limit issue needs to be addressed by the CHL. As the QMJHL calls itself the SCHOOL OF LIFE, why don’t they lead the charge and show players that honouring commitments is a lesson worth learning.