UPDATE: Ontario sport minister signals support for OHL

OHL Commissioner David Branch speaks at the WFCU Centre in Windsor, as the Spitfires are awarded the 2017 MasterCard Memorial Cup, May 2, 2016. (Photo by Mike Vlasveld)

Ontario’s minister of tourism, culture and sport signalled support for the OHL Thursday as the league seeks confirmation that its players are amateur athletes.

Michael Tibollo responded to a letter from the league, saying the Doug Ford government will do everything in its capacity to grow and support the Ontario Hockey League and junior hockey across the province.

On Twitter Tibollo said he wrote the OHL to assure them that “very soon we’ll be able to provide a solution the league, the fans, the billets, and the players will all be happy with.”

Earlier this week, the OHL wrote an open letter to the premier and Tibollo in which Commissioner David Branch asked for clarification on what he called a “critical issue.”

Branch said the Canadian Hockey League has been working with provincial governments across Canada and state governments in the U.S. to confirm its players are amateur athletes and not employees regulated by employment standards legislation.

The letter stated that virtually all other jurisdictions in which CHL teams play, have reviewed the issue and have already passed exemptions or clarifications.

They include Quebec, New Brunswick, BC, Saskatchewan, Washington, Nova Scotia, Michigan, Manitoba and PEI.

The CHL faces a troublesome class-action lawsuit launched four years ago, and certified in Ontario in April, 2017.

Former players from the OHL, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and the Western Hockey League argue they should be considered as employees and be paid minimum wage.

The suit also seeks payment for outstanding wages, holiday and vacation pay for current and former CHL players.

The letter from the OHL also highlights its scholarship program as the “hallmark of the player experience” in the league.

It states that in the 2017-2018 academic year, there were 321 OHL graduates using their scholarship at a cost of $3.125 million to league teams.