SBD/Issue 1/Leagues & Governing Bodies

NHLPA Files Application In Court Over Players' Pension Plans

The NHLPA has filed an application in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice regarding an interpretation of the NHL Players' Pension Plan. The plan was filed by the four Trustees the NHLPA has appointed to the BOD administering the Pension Plan. The issue relates to the calculation of the death benefit for players with service in the plan prior to July 1, 1986 (and prior to July 1, 1994 for certain employees). The NHLPA contends that the death benefit that has been paid to beneficiaries of players who passed away before electing to take their pension is less than required by the Pension Plan and by law. The issue could affect additional players going forward who played in the NHL prior to July 1, 1986 and who die before electing to receive their NHL pension (NHLPA). The GLOBE & MAIL's David Shoalts reports the "amount of money involved has not been calculated in detail," but a source said that it is "believed to be in excess of [C$1M]." NHL HOFer Brad Park, who "brought the issue to the union's attention," said, "This is not a direction I wanted to go." Shoalts notes the dispute marks the "second court battle" between the NHL and NHLPA over pensions. Seven players in '91 "sued the league over a $21.5[M] pension surplus they said was wrongly taken by the owners in the early 1980s." The players won, but the NHL "fought them all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, which allowed the judgment to stand." By then, it "had grown to $41.1[M]." The four NHLPA trustees and the four NHL trustees who "make up the board of the Pension Society have been discussing the matter for months, but failed to reach an agreement." The NHL "wanted the issue to go to an arbitrator, but the union decided to go to court." NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, who is "one of the league's trustees on the Pension Society," in a statement said that the NHL "has not yet examined the union's court filing so it cannot comment in detail." Daly added that the NHL "will co-operate with the court and comply with its ruling." Shoalts notes "at issue is the lump sum used by the Pension Society to generate income to pay individual player pensions." Under the rules, the beneficiaries of players involved "who die before collecting their pensions are entitled to a lump-sum payment." But the NHLPA believes that the payment "does not represent the total of the lump sum the Pension Society uses to pay the pension" (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/12). Park: "If I die before I take my benefits, my wife will only get $200,000. Why should she get only $200,000 if there's over $600,000 set aside for me?" (TORONTO STAR, 9/12).

LABOR ISSUES: NHLPA Exec Dir Paul Kelly participated in a Q&A with THE HOCKEY NEWS' Adam Proteau, who said there is a "sentiment out there that labor problems could be on the horizon in the not-too-distant future" for the NHL. Kelly responded, "I don't know that I'm worried. ... This CBA, I think we need two or three more seasons of experience (with it) to find out what works and doesn't work. ... I am determined to try and avoid labor unrest, be it in the form of a lockout or strike. ... But if owners take unreasonable positions, they'll have to deal with the consequences" (THE HOCKEY NEWS, 9/16 issue).

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