SBJ/November 6 - 12, 2006/This Weeks News

In Canada, NHLPA not forced to file

While the other major U.S. sports unions are spending increased time and resources on their annual LM-2 filings, the Toronto-based NHL Players’ Association operates under a different set of guidelines.

Knowledge of Ted Saskin’s NHLPA
salary doesn’t come from labor filings.
According to the Ontario Ministry of Labour, the union gained its official recognition in Canada shortly after being created in 1967. Since it’s considered part of the entertainment industry it is subject to provincial, not federal, laws.

“[Those provincial laws lack] the intrusions into the internal affairs of unions American laws have,” said Jerry Meadows, a senior policy adviser in the Ontario Ministry of Labour.

In accordance with regulations in Ontario, the province of Toronto, the union is required to furnish members with copies of its financials, but it does not have to file reports with the provincial government.

“If you were to ask if Ontario had a big collection of labor filings,” Meadows said, “our answer would be no.”

The union’s standing, however, has been far from readily accepted recently.

A group of NHL players is suing the NHLPA in U.S. court, claiming the union has failed to provide financial information to its members. The group also filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor and the National Labor Relations Board asking that, among other things, the NHLPA be required to file LM-2s like the other major U.S. sports unions.

The Labor Department ruled in January that it had no jurisdiction because the union is based in Canada, but the NLRB investigation of the players’ complaint is continuing.

Simultaneous with those challenges, some information about the union’s current finances have become public.

Last month, as first reported by the Toronto Star, the union agreed to distribute licensing money amassed in preparation for the NHL lockout of 2004. Detroit Red Wings defenseman Mathieu Schneider, currently a member of the NHLPA’s executive committee, told SportsBusiness Journal that the total amount of licensing money available is $140 million and players who were in the league between 1995 and 1999 will receive $80 million of that in the coming months.

In addition, a series of e-mails, which were obtained by news outlets last year, reveals that NHLPA Executive Director Ted Saskin is paid an annual salary of about $2.1 million a year.

Saskin’s proposal for his salary, which was leaked to the press last year after his appointment to the position, was based in part on his contention that NFL players union head Gene Upshaw earned $3 million and Billy Hunter, NBA players union chief, earned $2.8 million. Both Hunter and Upshaw have said that Saskin overstated their pay.

Also in that proposal, which Saskin wrote in August 2005, he noted that the NHLPA had recently negotiated long-term licensing deals with trading card company Upper Deck for $25 million over five years and with video game company EA Sports for $44.2 million over six years.

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