CHL denies employment violation allegations made by Georges Laraque

The Canadian Hockey League Players' Association, which says it represents junior A players, has threatened to sue the Ontario Hockey League over what it says are violations of "minimum legislative employment standards."
CHL president David Branch, shown here presenting the Memorial Cup to Shawinigan Cataractes captain Michael Bournival this past May, is questioning who is behind the CHLPA. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

The CHL denied any wrongdoing Friday, just one day after the fledgling CHLPA threatened to sue the league due to various employment violations.

Allegations made in a letter sent to the league (including its teams and owners) and Hockey Canada by the CHLPA’s legal counsel Thursday include a failure to "pay the players at least the prescribed minimum wage."

It also alleges a failure to "pay the players at least one and one-half times the prescribed minimum rate for each hour of work in excess of 44 hours in each work week," according to the letter.

The league responded in turn, saying it doesn’t find the position held by the union to be valid.

"The CHL vehemently disagrees with the recent allegations made by Georges Laraque on behalf of the Canadian Hockey League Players’ Association [CHLPA]," the league said in a release. "Mr. Laraque knows better than anyone, the investment that we make in each of our players and our commitment to ensuring that the player’s amateur hockey experience is maximized.

"We firmly believe that our teams have always acted in accordance with all applicable provincial and federal laws and will continue to do so."

Laraque's comments were made during a radio interview Friday with Sportsnet The Fan 590, in which he accused teams of taking advantage of their players.

"There's owners that have been threatening the players if they join the union," said Laraque. "We have letters, we have videos. We have all types of stuff."

When asked to name names, Laraque said he couldn't because "it's all going to go to court."

Junior A players in Canada are currently paid a small weekly stipend, and the CHL estimates investments in each individual player annually are $35,000 to $40,000. That investment also entails benefits like education programs.

Laraque was named executive director of the newly formed organization last summer. He spent three years playing in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League — winning a Memorial Cup with the Granby Predateurs in 1996 — before moving on to a NHL career that spanned 695 games.

The CHL and its various leagues, including the OHL, QMJHL and WHL, are widely regarded as a training ground for upcoming players hoping to get a shot at the NHL. There are currently over 1,400 players between the ages of 15 and 20.

CHL commissioner Dave Branch has questioned who is behind the CHLPA. Laraque said players on the CHLPA's executive board are making the decisions but he wouldn't say how may players are on the board.

With files from The Canadian Press