The Ontario Hockey League is hoping provincial politicians can help them in an ongoing legal battle.
Commissioner David Branch and the league’s board of governors have written an open letter to Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Michael Tibollo, the minister of tourism, culture and sport, to ask the provincial government to confirm its players as amateur athletes.
That definition is seen as a key factor in helping defend itself against the $180-million class-action lawsuit launched against the Canadian Hockey League four years ago. The suit is seeking back wages, overtime and vacation pay. It was certified in Ontario in April, 2017.
Branch and the OHL’s board of governors wrote that the league’s players enter and continue to play in the league with a clear understanding they are participating in amateur athletics.
They say that “virtually all other jurisdictions in which CHL teams play have reviewed this issue and have already passed exemptions/clarifications.”
Those jurisdictions include Quebec, New Brunswick, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Washington, Nova Scotia, Michigan, Manitoba and PEI.
On top of his duties as commissioner of the OHL, David Branch is also the President of the CHL.
In the letter, Branch touts the OHL’s Scholarship Program, which he says provides players with a minimum of one year’s tuition, books and compulsory fees at a recognized university, college, trade school or career-enhancing program, for each year played in the league.
Individual teams pay for post-secondary tuition, books and compulsory fees for players who are still playing in the league.
The OHL says 321 grads used the program in the 2017-18 academic year, costing the league’s 20 teams a combined $3.125-million. That includes the $475,000 spent on current players.
The league says there are currently 425 players in the OHL.