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Bid to unionize junior hockey players stalls in Nova Scotia

CHLPA executive director Georges Laraque

An attempt to unionize junior hockey players suffered a setback Friday in Nova Scotia when a would-be union withdrew its certification application with the provincial government.

The fledgling Canadian Hockey League Players Association had been trying to unionize the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

But Labour Department spokesman Kevin Finch says a certification vote planned for Friday was called off when the application was withdrawn.

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The cancellation of the vote was the second blow to the association's efforts to represent junior hockey players.

Josh Desmond, a former member of the Halifax Mooseheads, announced he was dropping a complaint over money with the Nova Scotia Labour Standards Division because publicity he's had has been distressing to him and his family.

The 19-year-old said he launched the labour complaint under the guidance of the CHLPA, which has been also making headlines for its dispute with the Ontario Hockey League.

The association claims junior A players aren't paid minimum wage, overtime, vacation or severance pay.

Junior A players in Canada are currently paid a small weekly stipend.

Desmond said in a statement his complaint wasn't focused on wages but on contract conditions that prevented him from collecting scholarship money while playing for the Mooseheads of the QMJHL.

"Unfortunately, the negative publicity and comments generated by my complaint have been very disturbing," he said. "I do not wish any further upset to my family."

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Desmond, who now plays for the Yarmouth Jr. A Mariners of the Maritime Junior Hockey League, said he felt privileged to be a member of the Mooseheads and didn't intend to demean the organization.

"As this is not what I intended and I wish no further upset, to all concerned, I will be withdrawing my labour standards complaint," he said.

"However, I hope that the QMJHL and their teams take this opportunity to review the educational packages for the benefit of the players, teams and the league."

There are media reports that CHLPA executive director, former NHL player Georges Laraque, plans to step down after a successor is found, but he did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

The Canadian Hockey League, which is the umbrella organization for the OHL, WHL and QMJHL, says its 60 teams have always acted in accordance with provincial and federal laws.

The CHL said in a recent statement that the estimated investment for each player is $35,000 to $40,000 annually, which includes an education program and other benefits.

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"The CHL is charged with ensuring that our players, who are between the ages of 16-20 are protected," the statement says. "We have no interest in doing anything that would jeopardize their experience."

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