Originally posted on Puck Drunk Love  |  Last updated 12/16/11

The Christmas season is not just a time for family and presents in Canada. It is time for the World Juniors. From Boxing Day into the New Year, people across the nation hold their collective breath as kids that they have hardly ever heard of vie for the gold medal in what is officially known as the IIHF U-19 World Championships.

It has become something or a tradition, helped by a few sports networks that run endless coverage of the teenagers facing off, and we Canadians eat up every last bit of it. We remember watching Sidney Crosby playing as an underager with a full cage scoring beautiful goals. Jordan Eberle, Mr. Clutch himself, scored goals that lifted the nation against the evil Russian Bear.

This year the World Jr.’s are being held in Calgary and Edmonton. The big time games will surely be sold out with 17,000 plus fans rocking the building, including a guaranteed packed house on New Years Eve when the USA face off against Canada at Rexall Place in Edmonton. The tickets for this game are sure to cost an arm and a leg, and Hockey Canada will be raking in the cash throughout the tournament as hockey crazed Alberta eat up every last bit of hockey that these kids will throw at them.

But just how much money is actually made off of this tournament? TSN has an exclusive deal to broadcast the games across their multiple platforms and the gate, concession and merchandise sales are sure to be off the hook. 26 games in all will be aired live on TSN as part of their deal with Hockey Canada, plus a thirty minute pre-game show before each Team Canada game.

So we are talking about some serious money being thrown around here. Bob Nicholson, President of Hockey Canada will surely enjoy it. But the question must be asked, what about the kids actually playing the hockey?

While it is surely a great honor for these to get to represent their country as everyone tunes in to watch them try to reclaim the gold from the Russians, shouldn’t they, you know, maybe get something for their hard work?

This seems like the type of bill of goods that the NCAA tries to roll out when they say their athletes get the privilege of playing for their school, while profiting millions off of their likeness and abilities. Hockey Canada and TSN in this case are going to be making money hand over first, while the players will be getting a nice little per diem to cover their McDonald’s breakfast.

These players are plucked from their junior teams, with the exception of the odd college player, ran through a quick four day tryout where coaches try to evaluate their entire skill set based on a few scrimmages. They are then run through the media gauntlet with cameras stuck in their face as they wait to hear whether or not they have made the team.

If they are one of the unlucky ones that do not make the cut, they have to deal with the national media scrumming around them, poking microphones in their face, at ungodly hours of the morning. They are then sent back to their respective teams and they get to watch the tournament on television like the rest of us.

For those lucky enough to make the team, their image and likeness is used endlessly to promote the games, as they deal with arguably the most pressure packed few weeks of their young careers. But nothing in the way of reimbursement comes their way. Junior players are typically paid around $1,000 a month to play in the CHL, which is $250 a week, so about $35 a day. Not exactly enough to live off of. This is why most players live with billet families, and probably spend the cash on gas money or similar necessities.

But here they are, being paraded out with the maple leaf on their chest, asked to shoulder the weight of a nation of their teenage shoulders, and given nothing but an extreme pressure for their time.

What would be a fair way for the players to be reimbursed for their play? That is the toughest part to figure out. Do Team Canada players get more? Do players from every team participating get an equal cut? Do you base it on performance, with bonuses for the top players? This is where it gets difficult. But it is something that needs to be discussed.

We are all blinded by the sense of national pride that the goal scoring montages, ripe with O Canada playing in the background, evoke from us. We feel as if we are coming together as a nation as these kids are still “pure”. They are just playing for their country, and the emotions are so raw when they win a huge game. But someone is making a huge amount of money off of them, and that is not right.

This is similar to the blatant exploitation that the consortium of broadcasters pulls off during the Olympics. These amateur athletes commit their entire lives to their respective sport, and networks make millions of dollars in hand with the governing bodies for the right to broadcast the events. The Canadian Olympics Association recently ramped out their Own the Podium program, in an attempt to pump more money into the amateur athletic system. Some money finally came in for these kids. But the hockey players continue to get the proverbial short end of the stick.

The best solution that I can come to is that each player should be paid a set amount if they make the team. Each countries hockey federation can figure out what is fair for them depending on the resources available to them. Bonuses based on winning can also be included.

How about $10,000 per player? It is not a ridiculous amount of money, and would hardly cut into the profits that are made off of the entire tournament. MVP and tournament All-Stars get a $1,000 bonus, and we are all happy.

Enough of this kids playing for the flag on the front of their jersey, while the corporations continue to profit off of their hard work.


This article first appeared on Puck Drunk Love and was syndicated with permission.

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