Hockey Night in Canada

CHL teams ordered to turn over tax info by Alberta judge

An Alberta judge has ruled that the Canadian Hockey League must turn over its tax returns and financial statements in order to determine if the league and its teams are profitable.

All records dating back to 2011 need to be produced in case related to pay for players

The CHL has been ordered to produce tax returns dating back to 2011 for teams in the WHL and OHL in relation to a lawsuit placed on the league by former players two years ago. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

An Alberta judge has ruled that the Canadian Hockey League must turn over its tax returns and financial statements in order to determine if the league and its teams are profitable. 

In the court ruling, which was handed down on Friday, the judge ordered that all relevant tax information and financial records dating back to 2011 needed to be presented by teams in the Western Hockey League and the Ontario Hockey League. 

The rulings arise out of a lawsuit placed by a former group of major junior hockey players two years ago. Those players are arguing the CHL and its umbrella leagues operate as a business and therefor should treat their players as employees.

The former players involved in the lawsuit want teams to pay current players at least minimum wage, along with covering outstanding costs such as wages, holiday pay and vacation pay to current and former players. 

The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League has not been ordered to turn over any records, because it is not listed as a defendant in the case. 

Along with every team in the WHL and OHL being ordered to produce their financial statements and tax returns, Ron Robison, the commissioner of the WHL, has been requested to share all revenue-sharing agreements related to the WHL and all agreements in which the WHL generates revenue. 

David Branch, the president of the CHL and commissioner of the OHL, has been ordered to do the same. 

Leagues argue they can't pay minimum wage

Robison and Branch have argued in the past that teams cannot afford to pay players minimum wage and doing so would cause some franchises to go bankrupt. 

"These franchises are not profitable. The industry is not profitable," said Robison. "We're trying to preserve these opportunities for these young players to play in leagues like the WHL and continue to provide a world-class experience."

The OHL argued that it should not need to hand over information since it is not a defendant. The judge agreed that it is not a defendant, but said, since affidavits from the teams were filed, they must produce their financial records.

The only way in which the OHL would not have to hand over documents is if the affidavits are removed from the case and not relied upon in any matter. 

There is a mirror action happening in Ontario which names the OHL as defendant, meaning even if the affidavits are removed from the Alberta case, an Ontario judge could follow precedent and order the teams to present their records. 

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