Maybe I watch too much television. On Friday, I listened with a lot of interest as Georges Laraque appeared on Hockey Central At Noon stating his newly formed organization, the Canadian Hockey League Players Association, was going to sue the CHL for subjecting players to sweatshop labour-like conditions.
At first, I thought this was a totally insane idea; but now I’m thinking their proposal of paying the players minimum wage has some merit. It’s a good idea. So, let’s pay the players minimum wage for their time on the ice (practices and games). I figure if players are on the ice for 90 minutes a day to practice and 4 hours per game, then you are looking at an employee who puts in between 20 and 30 hours a week. Therefore, if you pay that employee $12 an hour, each player gets $960 a month.
Players, therefore, will now be on the hook to pay for the elite level coaching received during these same 20-30 hours a week. They are also subject to a registration fee in order to try-out for their particular major junior team. Players will also pay for his own room and board while employed by the team, and must purchase specific hockey equipment that falls within the guidelines of the Canadian Hockey League. Academic opportunities will be available at the conclusion of your playing career, however any counselling required from an education professional will be paid for by the player or family of said player. In the event of a player injury during a league game or practice, the player or family will pay for any health expenses not covered by medicare. Teams will also not employ an actual team doctor, however the player is free to explore options for a medical professional upon arriving on his stay for the season.
David Branch, the President of the Canadian Hockey League, says each team invests approximately $30-$40 thousand dollars into each player per season and some players use upwards of $11 thousand a year in sticks alone. Figure that out to an hourly wage if you have a few moments.
This story, coupled with the NHL and its labour dispute, tells me that hockey has, quickly, become one of the most stuck up sports in the world. I don’t know any other sport where players are given an ‘opportunity’ to make themselves become an elite adult athlete where he can make millions of dollars over a short career and yet still be incredibly ungrateful. Sure, the owners of these major junior franchises are making money, but that is not a crime. They are providing a tremendous opportunity for teenaged boys and for everyone one playing major junior hockey and griping about not getting minimum wage, I will find you a hundred that would trade places with them.
I look at my own situation. I played two years of minor hockey as a child and was forced out of the game by age seven because we, simply, couldn’t afford to play. So, forgive me if I sound a little bitter over a group of major junior players, who likely have full access to a parent’s credit card anyway, that are bent out of shape because their major junior hockey team won’t give them an hourly wage for working. Look, if you don’t like the life of a major junior hockey player, go work in the retail world somewhere. Last I checked, there was great demand for retail workers in western Canada. It would be interesting to see the average household income of a family who has a player in the major junior ranks. I’m not slagging on them for being well off, but do you really need to push for a minimum wage on top of all the other perks you receive that other 16-19 year-olds are not privy to? How about being thankful for a change, instead of whining about what you ‘don’t’ have?
Unfortunately this kind of elitist attitude, while at the extreme, isn’t just in the major junior ranks. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen a Junior ‘A’ hockey player ‘refuse’ to report to a particular team because of one reason or another. Almost all of the time, the reasons are petty. Honestly, I could understand an 18-year-old from Yorkton not wanting to report to a team in BC because it’s too far away from home, but that’s seldom a reason. It’s easy for me to say, but I feel if a player doesn’t want to play elite hockey unless it’s by the player’s rules then that player shouldn’t play.
Let’s be thankful for what we have and not look for things that could improve situations that are, already, way better than the norm. Wouldn’t it be something if CHL teams were forced to pay a minimum wage and that resulted in three or four teams folding in the Western Hockey League? Welcome to working in retail.
Nice person mentions this week to: Dr. Fourie, Aaron Chipelski, Adria Pozniak, Laura Aberle, Jason Houston, and Gerry Vandane.