Thursday, October 13, 2005

Minor Leaguers May Sue the NHL

One of the clauses in the new CBA that is causing problems is the $75,000 waiver clause. It says that any player who is called up from the minors who is making more than $75,000 will need to clear waivers to be called up. Should he fail to clear, half his salary will be charged to the salary cap and payroll of the team that attempted to call him up. It is intended to prevent NHL teams from hiding salary in the minors, but has many unintended consequences. It makes for a defacto salary cap in the AHL and the ECHL. Why should we pay a career minor leaguer more than an NHL wannabe on a two-way contract? It has led to an exodus of career minor leaguers to the European leagues where they can get higher pay. This reduces the quality of the minor leagues since they lose talent. It reduces the development possibility for prospects in these leagues because prospects will not be playing against as high competition and thus not forced to learn to play at as high a level.

This is a clause that minor league hockey players and minor league hockey fans should be angry about. They had their leagues sold out by the NHL. The NHL has no right to do this. They have no right to significantly reduce the talent that fans will see in games. They have no right to effectively set a maximum salary for these leagues.

The Professional Hockey Players Association, the union for AHL and ECHL players, agrees and is threatening to sue the NHL according to the Toronto Star. Moreover, they are arguing that some players with existing contracts had their salary rolled back by 24% on the basis of the new CBA.

I think they have a very strong case. These minor league players were not members of the NHLPA and were not eleigble to vote on the new CBA. The NHLPA has no right to collectively bargain for players who are not among their members. This looks like a clear breach of anti-trust law.

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