The judge managing the class action in Quebec has ordered the defendants to produce the Standard Player Agreement (SPA) all players signed between 2008-2013.
The SPA ( both the English and French versions) was filed in Court on August 25 together with the affidavit of Gilles Courteau, Commissioner of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (“QMJHL”).
The SPA was drafted by the QMJHL and approved by its Board of Governors comprised of the owners of every Club and the Commissioner. Section 3 is entitled “Employment and Duties of Player”. Section 3 sets out the services expected of the players. Section 2 is entitled “Remuneration” and provides that each player will be paid a Salary.
There can now be no question that for many years the QMJHL legally classified Major Junior Hockey Players as employees while failing to pay minimum wage in direct violation of Quebec labor laws.
Throughout the course of this litigation, the Commissioners of the QMJHL, the Ontario Hockey League (“OHL”), the Western Hockey League (“WHL”) and the Canadian Hockey League (“CHL”) have repeatedly denied that Major Junior Hockey Players are employees while insisting that the leagues have always considered Major Junior Hockey Players to be amateur athletes. These statements were made in circumstances where the Commissioners must have known that Major Junior Hockey approved a Standard Player Agreement where until 2013 players are characterized as employees.
In 2014, as a result of a union drive and this class action, all three leagues in concert cancelled existing standard player agreements and replaced them with a new agreement where players are characterized as amateur athletes.
To date class actions in Alberta and Ontario against the WHL and the OHL have been certified while the Quebec class action will be heard in the fall of 2017. Given the new evidence revealed by the release of the QMJHL SPA, we expect all courts will have no difficulty in finding Major Junior Hockey players are employees.
The QMJHL SPA can be accessed here.