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NHL and junior leagues named in lawsuit

By Adam Riley Feb 15, 2024 | 5:48 PM

Megan Ellis / Unsplash

An antitrust lawsuit has been filed in a New York federal court against the NHL and several other hockey leagues over the systematic exploitation of teenagers pursuing their dream to play in the National Hockey League.

The case revolves around what the plaintiffs call the league’s unlawful agreements to restrain competition for the players, rendering them no more than property of the major junior teams that draft them.

Also named in the suit is the Western Hockey League, the Quebec Maritimes Junior Hockey League and the Ontario Hockey League.

It is alleged the leagues worked with one another to deny players the freedom to choose where they play hockey, colluded to pay only $250 a month for hockey services, separated them from their families at a vulnerable age and traded against their wishes, all to maximize profits.

“While the major junior leagues are marketed as the surest path to NHL stardom, the reality is that these leagues and their clubs earn hundreds of millions of dollars or more on the backs of their teenage players who receive minimal compensation for their full-time labor. Defendants’ conspiracy directly targets each U.S. state and Canadian province.”

Additionally,the plaintiffs allege that the defendants carved up the North American market into three exclusive territories (one for each league), each of which includes a combination of U.S. states and Canadian provinces, agreed not to compete for players across the leagues by giving each major junior league the exclusive rights to all players residing in their allotted territory through an involuntary draft, and further agreed not to compete for players once they had been involuntarily drafted by another team.

The suit was brought forward by the World Association of Icehockey Players Unions North America Division as well as two former players, Tanner Gould and Isaiah DiLaura.

“It’s time for change within major junior hockey,” said Gould. “I’m proud to be a part of this case because I want to make sure that the players coming up after me are protected in a way that I was not.”

“Teenage players continue to be treated like disposable objects, just like I was,” added DiLaura. “I am hoping this lawsuit will put an end to that.”

All allegations have yet to be proven in court.

More details on the suit can be found here.