|Voice of the Pats Phil Andrews|
The Western Hockey League announced on Monday that the State of Washington passed Senate Bill 5893 further clarifies the status of WHL players as amateur athletes and non-employees. The signing of the Bill by Governor Jay Inslee is the final approval required for the legislation to become law in the State of Washington. Previously approved by the bipartisan Senate and House of Representatives, the Bill concerned the status of amateur athletes and, now law, ensures WHL players will not be treated or defined as employees in the State of Washington. This affects all four Washington WHL Clubs, the Spokane Chiefs, Everett Silvertips, Seattle Thunderbirds and Tri-City Americans.
WHL Commissioner Ron Robison says this is a good ruling for the league. "Some very good news. this is certainly something we have been pursuing for some time. Following the decision by the Saskatchewan government to exempt amateur athletes from employment standards and this is now the same thing in Washington State. That's very important for us moving forward as it gives us the certainty we were looking for."
I asked the Commissioner if he was apprehensive about what the ruling might be. "You are always concerned, It's quite a lengthy process, there is a lot of steps but we were very encouraged by the support we received from both the Senate and the House of Representatives in Washington. They embraced the concept from day one. Felt it was important to preserve these franchises and the important roles they play in the communities as well as giving these players the opportunity. Again Saskatchewan was so critical to establishing the original legislation that we are now hopeful that all jurisdictions and particularly provinces in Canada will do the same thing."
It's certainly a polarizing issue. Yes players spend hours upon hours during a season at the rink and on the bus and playing games but are provided with the benefits of university education, food, shelter, and equipment. There are people on both sides of the argument. But at the end of the day a lot of teams would not be able to continue operations if the players were considered employees. Robison says that is true but that there is a more important aspect to the issue. "There is certain restrictions that would apply and there is also the economic aspect of it as well but more importantly it's about preserving amateur sport as we know it. Historically we have been operating as a league for close to 50 years and have been doing so on the basis that these players are registered as part of the amateur hockey system in Canada and the United States for that matter. So all we were looking for was government to confirm that they are amateur athletes and we can continue to operate as we have in the past."
Saskatchewan and now Washington State have the legislation leaving Manitoba, Alberta, British Columbia and Oregon as provinces and states which house WHL teams without anything in place. Robison says they are working towards getting something done in those areas as well. "Since Saskatchewan passed the legislation almost two years ago now we have been in constant contact with all provincial governments, particularly in Alberta and B.C. as well as the States. For all the jurisdictions in which we play it's important that everyone is playing under the same conditions. We have been given some excellent discussion in all provinces, we are focusing right now on B.C. in order to hopefully have them adopt this new legislation real soon."
While some may think that players deserve more money for what they do I would disagree simply on the basis that teams would not be able to keep things going. I highly doubt Swift Current, Prince Albert, Moose Jaw, Brandon, Medicine Hat, and Lethbridge would be anywhere close to sustainable if players got payed minimum wage. I love junior hockey and don't want to see it die.
- The Tampa Bay Lightning looked much better in game 2 on Monday than they did in Game 1 against the New York Rangers. Instead of chasing New York around the rink they pushed the pace themselves and were the much better team. It was tough to see so many penalties called in game 2 but at the end of the day there is no way the refs could keep the arm down on those calls. It was a sloppy game discipline wise but was fun to watch.
- Tyler Johnson of the Lightning has to be the favorite right now for playoff MVP if Tampa Bay gets by the Rangers. He has been the best player by far in my opinion. The undrafted former Spokane Chief is outplaying everyone, including his super-star teammate Steven Stamkos. Love the underdog story.
- What a fun game to watch last night between the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks. I think the winner of this series wins the cup. They are both so good, the only thing the East has better in my opinion is the goaltending. Henrik Lundquist and Ben Bishop are the best of the final four.
- The Edmonton Oilers hired Todd McLellan as their new coach yesterday. I think it is safe to say it's the best decision the Oilers have made in a long time. I do have my reservations that McLellan won't be the guy to lead Edmonton to a Stanley Cup considering the roster he had in San Jose and the lack of playoff success. He might be the in between guy but he will have Connor McDavid and the rest of that skill up front. Plus he's a Saskatchewan boy, we make em the best.
- Mike Babcock is going to stay in Detroit, at least that's what all the reports said yesterday. Yes he met with the Buffalo Sabres but I would be surprised if he doesn't stick with the Wings. I wouldn't blame him either. The track record of drafting and post season appearances is outstanding. Why would a guy leave the best organization in the NHL? If I was him I wouldn't leave and at the end of the day Detroit is going to pay him.
- Congrats to former Regina Pats Landon Peel and Dane Schioler on winning the RBC Cup on Sunday with the Portage Terriers. The Terriers were the first host team to win the RBC since the 2005 Weyburn Red Wings. Portage wasn't a typical host team though, they won the MJHL League Championship, went to the Western Canada Cup and qualified for the RBC Cup and then beat the Carelton Place Canadians in the final.
- Former Regina Pats forward Dyson Stevenson is playing in the Western Conference Finals of the ECHL playoffs right now with the Allan Americans. The Americans and Ontario Reign are tied at a game a piece with game 3 going tomorrow night. Dyson who finished the regular season in the AHL with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers was sent to the ECHL to keep playing. Dyson has a goal and an assist in the post season so far.
- The Mastercard Memorial Cup gets underway in two days time in Quebec. The host Ramparts will take on the WHL Champion Kelowna Rockets. I love when this tournament comes around every year. Romouski and Oshawa will play their first game against each other on Saturday. As a hockey fan I am a little disappointed that Connor McDavid, Dylan Strome and the Erie Otters are not in the tournament. Would have been a great showcase with those top NHL draft prospects but at the end of the day it will be a great tournament.
- Good to see the Argonauts sale is almost done. Needs to happen, along with a new place to play and all of that but this is the first step.
That's it from me today, have a great week!