Junior Hockey Salary
How much do clubs pay junior hockey players? Is the pay uniform across the team, or is it varied based on the player’s performance? You’re probably curious about this given that the clubs they play for earn huge revenues from corporate sponsorships, the sale of tickets, and merchandise.
Junior hockey players don’t get paid a salary. They’re given a weekly stipend that ranges from $50 to $100. They benefit from scholarships, playing equipment, and exposure to talent scouts for opportunities to join professional leagues. Some believe the law should be amended to pay them salaries.
In this article, we’ll reveal why junior hockey players don’t get paid a salary, the justification for not paying junior hockey players’ salaries, what their compensation packs look like, and the argument to review their remuneration and improve their welfare. Let’s dive right in.
You’re probably familiar with the hefty perks received by professional hockey players in the National Hockey League (NHL). On average, a professional player in the NHL league is paid $3 million annually.
According to Forbes magazine, Connor McDavid of Edmonton Oilers is the highest-paid player in the NHL with an incredible $18.5 million annual salary and a further $4.5 million from endorsements. Isn’t that impressive?
On the flip side, junior hockey players are relegated to a basic weekly stipend that pales compared to their senior counterparts. So what’s the explanation for this?
Why is this the situation yet the teams they play for are profit-making businesses that rake in huge revenues from their fixtures, sale of tv rights, and merchandise sales?
For instance, the sale of tickets alone can account for substantive revenues. Granted, some of the biggest arenas can surpass 10,000 people. The average ticket price in Canada’s NHL ranges from $51-$96.
The law provides an exception to the rule by exempting junior hockey players and other junior athletes from being considered as employees.
The state of Washington, for instance, categorically excludes junior ice hockey players who are at least sixteen years but under the age of twenty-one from its definition of an employee. The minimum wage is only applicable to persons who qualify to be considered employees.
The athletes who play junior hockey are of the ages between 16 and 20 years.
Since the Minimum Wage Act excludes junior hockey players from its definition of an employee, they are ineligible for minimum wage protection.
The law states that an “employee” does not include anyone who “is at least 16 years old but under 21 years old, in his or her capacity as a player for a junior ice hockey team that is a member of a regional, national, or international league and that contracts with an arena owned, operated, or managed by a public facilities district.”
Therefore, junior hockey players do not get a minimum wage and are also not covered by the state’s child labour laws.
In 2015, a Canadian named Glenn Gumbley attempted to unionize junior hockey players. He lodged a complaint with the Washington Department of Labor and Industries.
He was concerned that for-profit entities that ran the league were contravening state child labour laws and minimum wage laws by paying a mere stipend to the players. He felt they deserved better remuneration.
Lawmakers took note of this development and responded. Drew Macwan, a Republican Rep. who had grown up playing hockey, sponsored the House version of that bill. The main aim was to ensure that it was clear from the law that amateur players are not included in the definition of employees. This would make them ineligible for the minimum wage or other applicable labour laws.
The bill effectively excluded junior hockey players from minimum wage laws and child labour protections. He argued that junior players were gaining worthwhile interpersonal and athletic life skills as they played in the league. The drafters of the bill felt that these benefits are commensurate with the input of junior hockey players.
Those who run junior hockey teams also voiced support for the bill debating that their businesses would be significantly hampered if these labour laws were not adopted for their players. They feared that their business might be unsustainable if that bill wasn’t passed. If that bill failed to go through, they would be legally obligated to pay salaries to their junior hockey players.
The bill was passed.
Based on the previous information, the reason for not paying junior hockey players a salary is that they are now exempted from being considered employees by state laws. They are ineligible for a salary remuneration or even minimum wage protection.
On the other hand, since they are over 16 years, they are not protected by child labour laws.
In the United States and Canada, hockey leagues believe that junior hockey players play in amateur leagues, which offer excellent non-professional hockey competition. This gives them the opportunity to hone their skills.
Besides polishing their skills in a competitive tournament, the junior players get to benefit in other ways. They get awarded a full-year scholarship for every season played, and they also receive a weekly stipend.
Junior players have a compensation package that can be summarised as follows:
- College scholarships are covering tuition, learning materials, and other compulsory fees. As a student, you’re eligible for a year’s scholarship when you spend a season in the league.
- You get sports equipment.
- A weekly out-of-pocket stipend that ranges from $50-100.
- Billeting costs
- Travel expenses while playing in the league.
In junior hockey, the status quo has led to some lawsuits by those opposed to the payment of mere stipends to junior hockey players. Their argument is premised on the fact that junior hockey teams are massively profitable entities who can afford to pay decent salaries to junior players.
They further assert that it’s not justifiable for junior hockey teams to pay their junior players a mere stipend that’s way below the minimum wage. There is a need for amendment in the law to review the remuneration of junior hockey players. They should be paid a decent salary, or in the worst-case scenario, the minimum wage.
These hockey teams generate their revenues from their junior hockey players, who end up taking home as little as $50 weekly. In contrast, the salary budgets for non-playing staff dwarfs the amounts allocated to pay the junior players, including amounts assigned for scholarships and other benefits, like free equipment.
In a regular 6-month season, CHL teams play 70+ games. The players invest upwards of 35-60 hours weekly practicing, travelling, and playing games. The compensatory stipend of $50-100 every week is inadequate compared to the many hours committed to the league.
As you can see, junior hockey players are not paid a salary but a weekly stipend between $50-100. This is due to a clause in the law that excludes amateurs from the definition of an employee. We peered into how that law was crafted and the justifications surrounding why junior hockey players shouldn’t be paid a minimum wage.
However, they enjoy other benefits like life skills impartation, college scholarships, training, talent exposure, and the purchase of equipment.
Nevertheless, some opine that since the teams they play for are businesses that generate profits, the law should be reviewed to allow junior hockey players to earn a salary.
Check out this video by a former junior hockey player as he explains how the junior players get paid:
- Stickhandling Pro: What-Is-the-Highest-Level-of-Junior-Hockey/
- Wikipedia: The United States ice hockey structure
- Vice: The Fight to Keep Junior Hockey Players From Getting Paid
- The Hockey News: Turns out there is big money in junior hockey, and it’s not going to players.
- Iheartradio: OHL Will Not Have To Pay Players
- Knkx: Why Does For-Profit Hockey In Washington Not Have To Pay Players Minimum Wage?
- CBC.ca: Western Hockey League exempt from paying players minimum wage as CHL lawsuit looms
- Law Files: Labor Regulations - amateur Athletes
- Statista: Average NHL salary by team 2019/20
- Wikipedia: List of ice hockey arenas by capacity
- Sports Business Daily: Canada’s Unifor Pushing For Junior Hockey League Players To Create Union