Former hockey player Kobe Mohr has filed a class-action lawsuit against the NHL and many of the large North American junior leagues. That includes the AHL, the ECHL, and all leagues under the CHL umbrella. It alleges a large conspiracy took place that suppressed player salaries in hockey’s lower levels and created a severe power imbalance between players and teams. The Toronto Star reported the lawsuit late Wednesday morning.
#StarExclusive: A proposed $825 million class-action claim alleges a conspiracy among the top professional and amateur hockey leagues to exploit dream-chasing teenage players with one-sided contracts containing abusive restrictions on their young careers. https://t.co/oMKfhSOOv6
— Toronto Star (@TorontoStar) September 16, 2020
Lawsuit filed against NHL
There is a lot to unpack with this article. Mohr describes an environment where players play for small amounts of money while the dream of an NHL future is deliberately kept out of reach. It is fairly easy to say that low-level players are or were underpaid. However, it is hard to prove that collusion is the root cause of that situation. However, the Star also describes a separate situation where money intended for education after a player is done competing is blocked or relatively hard to obtain.
Some of the allegations in this suit might remind sports fans of the late 1980’s. That is when Major League Baseball was found guilty of colluding to suppress player salaries. Said collusion violated baseball’s collective bargaining agreement. There is precedent for unfair treatment of players but it is hard to prove hockey is doing the same thing that baseball did.
What This Means for the Future
This is a sizable accusation against the NHL and other hockey leagues. The lawsuit is seeking $825 million for potentially thousands of former players from the past 10 years. This is also not the only lawsuit hockey is facing right now. A filing aimed at former alleged abuse in the CHL was revealed in June. These lawsuits are not what hockey wants to be handling right now. However, hockey is undergoing massive culture shifts. Conversations about racism and diversity in hockey are happening at every level. Hockey’s economic system is yet another target for those wishing to create a better environment for future players.