Alberta Court of Appeal Says Class-Action Lawsuit Against WHL Can Proceed

The Western Hockey League says its teams can't afford to pay players a minimum wage, on top of other benefits they already receive.

It looks like a class-action lawsuit against the Western Hockey League will be allowed to go ahead, with the players involved.

On Tuesday (May 15) the Alberta Court of Appeal ruled in Calgary the judge who granted certification last year was right to exclude players from the league's teams in the United States. The suit says players have been paid less than the minimum wage, as little as $35 per week for between 40 to 65 hours of work. It is asking for back wages, overtime and vacation pay.

The WHL is arguing its players are "amateur student-athletes'' and it can't afford to pay them minimum wage on top of benefits they already receive, including post-secondary scholarships. The league also says several teams would be forced to fold if they had to pay players a minimum wage.

A similar situation is taking place in Ontario with the OHL and a suit is also pending with the QMJHL.

- Pat Siedlecki with files from SPORTSNET

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