A union in its infancy has turned to a retired National Hockey League tough guy for guidance.
The newly formed Canadian Hockey League Players' Association named Georges Laraque its first ever executive director on Tuesday, laying the foundations for a type of group the CHL has never had before.
While the specific functionality of the union itself has yet to be formally announced, reports indicate it will strive for better representation of the league's 1,300 junior hockey players in terms of education packages and restitution for their use in league branding among the three major junior hockey leagues in Canada (Ontario Hockey League, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and Western Hockey League).
The CHL hasn’t heard anything official yet either.
"To date, the league has not received any formal notification on the formation of this association or any intent to organize our players," CHL president and OHL commissioner David Branch said in a statement.
He also reiterated the league's integrity with regards to its treatment of players.
"We are of the opinion that no junior hockey league in the world has made more changes to support the best interest of its players both on and off the ice as the CHL," he added. "This is evidenced by our drug education and anti-doping program, our concussion management program, numerous charitable programs and our Respect in Sport program as developed by Sheldon Kennedy in the area of player abuse."
While the CHL is largely a major pipeline on the path to the NHL for many young talents, junior players’ official stipends of $50 per week have remained largely unchanged over several decades.
Junior players practice on a daily basis and are in some ways subject to the same types of stresses and pressures as their NHL predecessors. They can be traded, are tested for performance-enhancing drugs and star players compete for their countries in the lucrative world junior hockey tournament.
Yet, the formation of a union for a group largely comprised of teenagers could theoretically jeopardize the world juniors or the Memorial Cup should a work stoppage ever happen.
With that in mind, we want to know what you think. Should Canadian junior hockey players form a union? Cast your vote and post your comments below to start the debate!