CHLPA Reaches Out Regarding NCAA Eligibility

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CHLPA Reaches Out Regarding NCAA Eligibility October 30, 2012 7:50 AM

TJHN was the first to break the CHLPA story, since that time we have tried to keep everyone updated with its actions as it pertains to players and its potential legal manuvers.

In one of our first stories we reported that the CHLPA would seek to eliminate "stipeneds" or player "payments" in order to open the door for its players to the NCAA. It appears now that the CHLPA is serious about making that move.

TJHN has learned that the CHLPA made an inquiry to the NCAA about what it would take for players they would represent within what is no considered major junior hockey to be considered amateur. They received a reply from Natasha Oakes, Assistant Director of Academic and Membership Affairs, that said:

Our legislation in Bylaw 12.2.3.2.4 notes that ice hockey teams in the US and Canada classified by the Canadian Hockey Association (CHA) as major junior teams are considered professional under the legislation. As a result, even with the elimination of the stipend, these players would not have eligibility because of the classification of their hockey teams.

If the stipend were to be eliminated and the association were to not classify the team as major junior, then they would not be considered professional per our legislation; however, you would need to consult with the CHA regarding the process of changing the classification.

The CHLPA now believes those hurdles have been cleared. It points out that the CHL’s by-laws recently changed, and it now proclaims itself as a non-professional league instead of a professional one. Therefore, says the CHLPA, if the stipend is within NCAA’s allowances for necessary expenses, the problem would appear to be solved.

Unfortunately what the CHLPA can not address is the fact that many major junior players are already under NHL contract, and have received signing bonuses under the terms of those contracts. Because of this, what the CHLPA would term as "amateur players" are currently playing with professional players. That in itself would be an NCAA violation.

Amateur players can not play with professionals and maintain complete amateur status. Many European players coming to the US can not play NCAA hockey because they have played with professional players at a junior age. This is not uncommon in Europe and is a big reason we dont see more European players in the NCAA. Example, Boston University freshman Ahti Oksanen was suspended for two games because he played on an amateur team in Finland which briefly had a player on its roster that was under a pro contract. Several other situations like this have been found in other NCAA programs, as well as the USHL and NAHL.

Though playing with a pro player in a limited amount of games does not result in the NCAA keeping a player from playing forever, usually the player must sit as many games as he played while there was the technical violation.

Eliminating the NHL contracted players from major junior hockey is not something that is likely unless the new NHL/NHLPA collective bargaining agreement allows for those players who are signed and drafted to play in the American Hockey League. Since a new transfer agreement with the NHL has not yet been agreed to major junior hockey could elect to work toward that goal or not. The NHL will likely dictate the terms of that renewed agreement.

To that extent, the CHLPA’s organization is becomming a little more defined as the legal players behind the scenes are being revealed along with their areas of expertise.

Veteran Halifax labour lawyer Ron Pink, who served on the NHLPA’s advisory board until 2009, is functioning in a similar role with the CHLPA as one of three lawyers on a 10-member board that until now had not been revealed publicly.

Also on the CHLPA’s advisory board are lawyers Denis Bradet and John Bielski, former interim executive director Sandra Slater as treasurer, and spokesman Derek Clarke.

It is expected that applications for labor certification will be filed in Nova Scotia and Quebec this week or early next week.

The CHLPA battle lines are being drawn on many different fronts at this point in time. The NCAA battle is one that is likely not to be fought for a while yet, but clearly NCAA programs will be watching as this item develops.

By Joseph Kolodziej

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