Players Rights: Trades, Future Considerations & the Junior Hockey Black Market
The fact is that the top Leagues are those with the most teams that have the biggest budgets to pay $4000+ transfer fees to purchase players’ rights from another jurisdiction.
This is one of the only transfer situations that is governed by a reasonable, fair and swift process. If a USHL club wants to purchase the player rights of a Player in Manitoba or Ontario, they fill out the appropriate paperwork and pay the proscribed fee agreed upon by both Hockey Canada & USA Hockey. Since teams from out of country are allowed to speak directly with players who are signed in other jurisdiction without charges of tampering having effect, it is actually quite a civilized process. Essentially, the team really just needs to be sure that the player wants to play for them before they make their ‘purchase’. This stops teams from holding players hostage for their rights with unreasonable demands or because of petty personality conflicts.
Canada – Inter-Provincial Transfers
The $4000 fee is the ‘maximum’ price point set for USA-Canada transfers, but in practice, Intra-Branch or Inter-Provincial Hockey Canada Transfers are at the mercy of the Team that owns the players rights. Interested Teams cannot simply pay the money and player willing, purchase his rights. This means that the selling Team can simply refuse to trade a player at all. Or they demand additional players, cash or other considerations that are shall we say – “Under-the-Table” demands. This leaves players in a tenuous situation wherein they are stuck in hockey limbo. Essentially, they are now unwelcome back to their previous team because they dared to want better or different development options, and they are unable to move forward in their hockey career and play at any Tier II level anywhere.
Considering that Players are not allowed to play away from home at the Tier II level until they are at an age corresponding with having completed High School. This year you had to be a 1994 birth year to play out of province. This forces players to sign locally in their provincial league or they simply cannot play. Then they are stuck with that team and cannot transfer to a better out of province option without potentially paying a heavy toll.
The option always available is to sign in the CHL (OHL/WHL/Q) system where Tier II teams have no effective means of blocking such a move. It is quite interesting as there is a very real double standard alive in Canadian Hockey. Players have two options to play Junior Hockey at elite levels. They can sign at the Tier II level and give away their movement options for their entire career or they can sign in the CHL system and have even fewer options for choice at that level. Effectively, they can leave Tier II for the CHL but they cannot as easily leave the CHL for the Tier II level. This double-standard allows the CHL clubs to pillage Tier II programs with impunity as there are not any real financial remedies available to Tier II Teams to make up for loss of potentially valuable assets. I guess this is why they can be so petty and vindictive when a player wants to play out of province or for another team in the league.
In both situations, inter-personal conflicts from a player deciding to not want to play for their current Team or Coach routinely results in bitter feelings from the Management side. They can act professionally and find a workable solution or alternatively be spiteful and hang a player out to dry and threaten to leave him in hockey limbo. He is then unable to play at any level unless he accedes to the team demands which leaves a player especially vulnerable to intimidation. Whether that means they have to report to wherever the Team trades them, regardless of their desires or it means that the Team holds their Scholarship package hostage in exchange for free agency rights. An unfortunate occurrence that has been known to happen at the CHL and Tier II levels and something that happened to my clients many times at every level of junior, unfortunately.
Overall, when you decide to sign a player card or CHL contract, make certain that you are content to be there for your entire career as getting traded or released from your contract is not a fun nor painless process. Unless of course, they find someone better then you, in which case, they will release you outright at any point during the season with not so much as a ‘Thanks-for-coming-out!” Yet another double standard that unfortunately is the backbone of the hockey world. This is why I always advocate protecting your player rights in any and all ways possible at every age.