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CHLPA’s promise of windfall for junior players overlooks some obvious facts

Neate Sager
Buzzing The Net

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Plymouth Whalers' Rickard Rakell (with trophy) is a CHL player who (gasp) isn't Canadian (The Canadian Press)

If it really took 14 months for the Canadian Hockey League Players' Association to get to this point, then one would think it would know Hockey Canada's financial structure inside and out. Or know the CHL does not get a dime for having its teams in EA Sports' NHL video-game franchise.

Again, while a players' association in major junior hockey is great in the abstract and has shed light on what the midlevel and fringe players get or don't get out of the league, the CHLPA does not have its facts lined up. For instance, saying each CHL player could have received $12,000 for his future education off the profits from the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championship — money which is put toward growing the game, not buying the latest Gulfstream — is just a little fantastical. It only feeds the suspicions this good intentions notwithstanding, this isn't very well thought out, at all.

From Mark Spector:

The CHLPA hopes to establish an educational bank account for each of those players and augment that with funds from the aforementioned game ticket surcharge and Hockey Canada events like the World Junior Hockey Championship (where CHL players help Hockey Canada to reap millions in profits).

When that player is done with CHL hockey, [CHLPA spokesman Derek] Clarke says, that bank account should be used whenever each player wants, and for whatever type of path they choose for establishing themselves in a future career.

In addition the CHLPA wants players' shares for imaging and branding, video games, and most pointedly, a share from a World Junior Hockey Championship that — using current NHLPA numbers — would have put $12,000 into every player's educational account from just last year's WJHC event in Alberta, Clarke says.

"(Hockey Canada) will have no choice but to play ball with us once we get our recognition," Clarke, 43, said. "CHL players in those events would be part of the union membership, we would surely ask the PA be adequately compensated for that." (Sportsnet)

This is giving Sager, 35, a splitting headache.

First off, some basic math: $12,000 times the approximate 1,300 players who were regulars in the CHL last season is $15.6 million. The CHL only got a $6-million cut from the 2012 WJHC's $22-million surplus. That $15.6M figure is also greater than the profit margin from every other world junior hockey championship staged prior to 2012.

A Canadian Press story from May said Hockey Canada "plans to divert $9 million of the expected $22 million into its own programs." In other words, Clarke is suggesting that CHL players should be put ahead of trying to support women's hockey, sledge hockey and other growth areas of the sport. You're going to take away from getting more girls involved in hockey? Pick your own -ism to apply to that line of thinking.

On top of it all, even NHLers are not paid to play for their national teams. That's not saying members of Team Canada aren't entitled to some compensation for what amounts to a month's work. But Derek Clarke's logic is twisted: every CHL player should get a residual from Hockey Canada for the world junior? What would non-CHLers, who actually comprise the majority of the participants in the tournament, receive? What about NCAA players? Would Denmark's tiny hockey federation have had to negotiate in order to use then-Oshawa Generals centre Nicklas Jensen in the tournament? How would Team Sweden have felt knowing their teammate, the Plymouth Whalers' Rickard Rakell, was getting a payoff that they're not entitled to?

As for players shares from "video games," the CHLPA apparently overlooked the CHL doesn't get any money for having its players and teams in a video game. It's purely a marketing exercise; who buys the game primarily because junior teams are in it? Put another way, you could imagine EA's response would have been if the CHL had tried to get a licensing fee before it was added to the NHL 11 game.

These are things which show the CHLPA might be little more than a good idea. All the time and effort of organizing it surely could have more attuned to some realities about junior hockey's finances.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at neatesager@yahoo.ca and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.

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