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NCAA & CHL Scholarship Guarantees

by Jason Nadeau

NCAA – CHL (OHL/WHL) Scholarship Guarantees??? No Such thing…

Everyone worries about securing their hockey and academic futures. They agonize for months, if not years, over choosing the correct path for their lives, be that the CHL or the NCAA routes. Once they finally make a decision and earn their OHL scholarship or NCAA letter of intent, they think, INCORRECTLY, that everything is just fine and their future is secure. Today I want to look at the realities of what actual guarantees you have when you sign your WHL or OHL contract or NCAA National Letter of Intent (LOI).

OHL & WHL Contract Basics:

I’m not going to go through the entire CHL Contract in this article, I’ll leave that for another time, right now, let’s focus on the truth of the matter. According to the various CHL Standard Player Agreements, Players are entitled to one year of post-secondary education for every season in which they play at least ONE game, to a maximum of 5 years of entitlement. This guarantee includes: tuition fees, compulsory student fees and necessary textbooks. This is subject to certain conditions, such as designating a home university for price comparison. Also, it is important to note that this is the Standard ‘deal’, but in the Addendum, individual Players can and do negotiate other guarantees where possible.

So what is the reality on the ground? Is this an iron-clad promise and guarantee? The answer is NO, it is NOT. There are various situations where things can and do go sideways, which I am certain you have all heard about from time to time. I will give you one example that happens more then people realize or even know about. I have had multiple Advocate readers convey this particular story to me from past season.

Now according to the terms of the agreement, a Player is entitled to receive an entire Year of Scholarship IF he plays games during the regular season.

Long story short, various Players, at different points during the season, signed CHL Standard Player Agreements and played more then their required ONE game. They then – for whatever reason – parted ways with the Club as things had not worked out to the satisfaction of both parties. I’m not concerned with blame or ‘He Said-She Said’ situations as that isn’t important. Whether it be false promises by the Team or failure to perform as promised by the Player, the issue at hand is that their hockey relationship was coming to an end with the Player and the Team parting ways. The Player declined a trade and was content to go back to Junior B or a lower level Junior A tier II League, leaving the CHL team with no direct compensation for their ‘asset’.

The guarantee was then annulled when He was informed by the team and later confirmed by the commissioners office that the scholarship allotment for that current season would NOT be honoured.

The reality was that he had his scholarship pulled and by that I mean the CHL Club effectively tore up the contract so that the Player would NOT receive that year’s educational expenses in the future. The commissioners office made it clear that it would have been pulled as a matter of course even if the Club hadn’t already done so.

So how is this possible you ask? Is it fair? Is it Legal?

The issue of fairness is arguable as the team shouldn’t be on the hook for such an expensive fee when they only benefited from the Players services for such a short period. However, this clause is clearly in existence, partially if not wholly because a lot of young recently drafted players are convinced to sign the SPA contract which effectively NULLIFIES their NCAA opportunities, so the ONE game threshold, in the very least, provided players with some partial future academic compensation.

The legal question and how this course of action is possible are directly related. The fact remains that players and their families are scared of taking action against the CHL in most instances because they do not want to ‘ruin’ and future career options by rocking the boat. Frankly, while things didn’t work out this year, they hope to go back to the CHL next season and continue the hockey dream. If they take legal action against the league we all know that the odds of playing in the CHL again are remote at best.

So the result is that scholarship guarantees can and have been torn up, in this type of scenario while players have been reluctant to fight the system for fear of further damaging their professional dreams.
Now, just so everyone is clear, I’m not arguing the league is untrustworthy, because that is NOT true. They do provide valuable education packages to hundreds of players every year. [Whether those same players use their awards is a totally different argument.] The point I am trying to make is that no contract is bullet proof, there are loop holes and you have to be aware that your rights can and may be abrogated.

Lastly, I just want to point out that there are in FACT no real GUARANTEES, even though you have a contract. For example, there are many scenarios where the league may terminate a contract where the player leaves the team for a variety of reasons. Even though they are entitled to their 1 year Scholarship for 1 game played, the CHL teams can and do quietly tear up their deal or threaten to withhold transferring their rights to another league unless the Player accepts that termination. Why would anyone do this, well, where a multi-hundred million dollar company holds the future of your hockey career in its hands, there is always potential that people will allow this type of practice to happen to them because they do not want to ‘upset the apple cart’ and ruin any future opportunities or their character. Now, I’m not judging the right or wrong of any potential scenario, as I don’t think it is fair that a Club has to pay a Player $8-10,000+ Dollars for one game if the Player quits. What I want to point out is that you have to know your rights and then be prepared to ENFORCE them if need be.

***2020 Update: The CHL finally settled a massive class action lawsuit over player wages, you can read the article here. The CHL did its’ best to screw players out of money while they were playing and as this article demonstrates, after the fact as well when they could. I wouldnt be shocked if there was a similar suit in the future over scholarship fees.

To Read the Other Articles on CHL, NCAA & Tier II Junior A Scholarship Information in this Series Click Below:

What Does an NCAA or CHL Scholarship Actually Cover – Full Rides are a Myth

CHL Scholarships – 18 Months

BCHL Scholarship Facts – Quick Look

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