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CHL Notebook: Front office shuffles and the WHL gets slapped with a conspiracy lawsuit

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So many coaches hired...

Okay, there was a lot going on this week in the front offices of CHL teams. Let’s just dive right in.

Minimum Wage Lawsuit

We’ll start with the latest news from the minimum wage lawsuit. Rick Westhead of TSN reports that the WHL part of the lawsuit has been certified as a class action, with some differences than the OHL portion:

WHL commissioner Rob Robison issued a statement:

Calgary, Alta. – Justice Hall issued his certification decision today in Calgary with respect to the proposed class action suit filed against the Western Hockey League.

This was a procedural decision only and makes no determination regarding the merits of the claim and, in particular, the status of WHL players. The claim fundamentally misunderstands the nature of amateur sport, including major junior hockey. We believe players are not employees but amateur athletes, and we believe our case is strong.

Our position has been endorsed by governments in the majority of jurisdictions where WHL Clubs are located. The provinces of Saskatchewan and British Columbia along with the State of Washington have adopted exemptions to their employment standards acts clarifying that WHL players are amateur athletes. The WHL expects all other provincial and state jurisdictions will also pass similar exemptions in the near future.

The WHL is proud of the experience we offer our players. The value of the WHL benefit package our players currently receive far exceeds the employment standards benefits sought in the claim. WHL Clubs cover all the necessary expenses needed to compete at the highest level of the Canadian amateur hockey system including top-of-the-line equipment, room and board, and travel costs. Parents of elite hockey players understand the value of this alone, but we are also committed to supporting our players whether they continue their hockey career at the professional level or take advantage of our fully-guaranteed WHL Scholarship which provides one year of tuition, textbooks and compulsory fees at a post-secondary institution of their choice for each season played in the WHL.

The WHL player benefits are the most extensive of any junior hockey league in the world. Any change to the status of our players as amateur athletes would have major implications to not only the WHL but amateur sport as a whole. If WHL Clubs were required to provide minimum wage, in addition to the benefits the players currently receive, the majority of our teams would not be in a position to continue operating. This scenario would unfortunately result in fewer opportunities for young men to play in the world’s top major junior hockey league while pursuing their academic and hockey goals. Similarly, the impact on other top level junior hockey and amateur sport leagues would be devastating as many teams simply could not afford to pay minimum wage to their athletes.

We look forward to presenting our arguments regarding the merits of the case. This is an important case not only for the WHL, but other junior hockey leagues and amateur sport in Canada as well.

This is one to keep watching closely. It’s moving slowly, but it’s coming together.

Front office shuffles

Okay, this one isn’t an OHL team hiring a coach, but Windsor Spitfires co-owner Bob Boughner was manned head coach of the Florida Panthers. After three years as an assistant with the San Jose Sharks, Boughner now runs the show in Miami.

The Spitfires have replaced depart coach Rocky Thompson with Trevor Letowski, who spent the past two seasons as the Spitfires Associate Coach.

The Victoria Royals made some front office changes as well:

Doug Bodger is now a full time assistant coach. He was part time last season.

Ryan Guenter was upgraded to head scout for the Royals after years as a regional scout.

And the biggest news was the naming of Dan Price as the new head coach. This is his first time as head coach in the WHL. He’s been a head coach in the AJHL, assistant coach with the Chilliwack Bruins and Tri-City Americans, and an assistant coach with the U of T Varsity Blues (I always wondered why they were named after a James Vanderbeek movie).

The Kitchener Rangers have replaced out going PP specialist Jason Fortier with Andreas Karlsson. Karlsson is coming over to the OHL after leaving York University’s varsity hockey team where he was an assistant coach. Karlsson is an NHL vet after playing the the Thrashers and Lightning.

From the Record:

Karlsson's connections should also be a boon with regards to recruiting European prospects. OHL teams can roster two imports per season and the Rangers are currently trying to woo Swedish forward Lias Andersson to the Aud.

The Ottawa 67’s have filled their empty offices in a...unique way.

It came out that James Boyd, the GM that brought the Mississauga Steelheads to the OHL Finals last season, will take over as team GM. Good hire, but here’s where it’s tricky. Avs fans will know what’s up.

They brought over the contract for Halifax Mooseheads head coach André Tourigny. There was four years left on his contract with Halifax, but with his family living in the Ottawa area while he coached in Nova Scotia, the gap was too much for them. Tourigny was in year one of a five year deal he signed with Halifax after leaving the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies where he was GM and head coach.

The tricky part here is he will also be Vice-President of Hockey Operations, essentially his bosses boss. Hopefully it works out for the 67’s. They need a few good seasons to get attendance back up.

The Mooseheads have their side of the story on their website.

The North Bay Battalion hired Scott Wray as an assistant coach. Wray was head coach of Jr A affiliate Powassan Voodoos, and won the NOJHL championship last season.

The London Knights lost Assistant General Manager Jake Goldberg to the Arizona Coyotes, where he will be the new Director of Hockey Operations.

The Hamilton Bulldogs hired Dave Matsos as an associate coach. Matsos was head coach of the Sudbury Wolves for the past two and a half seasons. He won three straight EIHL championships with the Sheffield Steelers earlier in his career.

The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies have named Daniel Leblanc their new head scout. The Former Huskies player was scouting the Maritimes for the team after retiring due to injury.

Signings and Trades!

Teams were signing players as well. The Kamloops Blazers signed first round pick Josh Pillar and goaltender Dylan Garand.

The Kootenay Ice signed Anson McMaster.

The Regina Pats acquired Koby Morrisseau from the Spokane Chiefs, with a conditional 2020 5th round pick for a 2019 or 2020 4th round pick and a conditional 2019 3rd. Koby had 1 goal and 1 asssist in 22 games with Spokane last year.

The Seattle Thunderbirds signed Luke Bateman and Tyrel Bauer.


Other stuff

The WHL held their pontificating camp last weekend. Hopefully losing sight of the puck was a big topic discussed.

The Sarnia Sting need an Athletic Therapist, and the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies need an Administrative Director.

The Edmonton Oil Kings are selling off gear and hosting an autograph session.

The legislative assembly in Quebec passed a bill that states “The City of Gatineau is therefore obliged to open a register that could lead to a referendum.” Gatineau is looked to build a $104 million arena complex to replace the 55 year old Robert Guertin Centre with a 4,000 seat arena for the Olmypiques and three additional ice pads.

If 14,288 people sign the register (10% of all voters), Gatineau will have to hold a referendum on the Guertin project as a whole. If less than 14,288 people sign the register, the draft is adopted.

Photi Sotiopoulos left the QMJHL as their Communications Director to take a position with Hockey Canada. It was good to briefly meet him at the Memorial Cup.

Finally, last season’s London Knights team - OHL and Memorial Cup champions - were inducted into the London Sports Hall of Fame.

If you enjoyed this feature and would like to see more posts about the CHL and junior hockey, click here to email SBN and let them know.

If a non-existent basketball team can get a website, why not the CHL?