In what comes as no surprise to those of us at TJHN, the former Ontario Hockey League players who have filed suit against the league for minimum wage, won the first major court decision in the case.
Ontario Superior Court Justice Paul Perell certified their three year old case as a class action lawsuit and appointed as representative plaintiffs Sam Berg, who played for the Niagara IceDogs in 2013, and Daniel Pachis, who played for the Saginaw Spirit and Oshawa Generals.
Pachis though is only eligible for damages while playing for Oshawa, as the three OHL teams based in the United States are exempt from this ruling as the Canadian Court decided it did not have jurisdiction. That however may change as legal experts in Michigan believe the OHL clubs availed themselves of the Canadian Court jurisdiction by playing in Canada and players therefore working in Canada.
This decision, does not directly impact any actions pending against the Western Hockey League, or the Quebec Major Junior League. That said, courts traditionally do not like to issue diverging opinions concerning similar acts, and prefer to allow all similar issues to be resolved in a uniform manner when possible.
Judge Perell made some other notes in his ruling concerning both sides and their pleadings stating;
“Perhaps because of the novelty of their claim and the extraordinary importance that hockey has to Canadians, Messrs. Berg and Pachis excessively over-pleaded both their case and also their certification motion, and they engaged in an emotive public relations pitch to portray the players that formed the putative class as exploited workers of avaricious employers”
“The [OHL] excessively responded to the certification motion with an emotive public relations pitch of their own. The [OHL] portrayed themselves as magnanimous patrons and benefactors of their hockey players. The Defendants portrayed Messrs. Berg and Pachis as bitter, self-centered, and ungrateful also-rans, whose proposed class action would irreparably damage the enterprise that had been built for the players to advance their careers and their prospects to play in the professional hockey leagues.”
TJHN will update this story as more information becomes available.