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Third annual Hockey Arbitration Competition of Canada a success

|Written By Amir Torabi
Third annual Hockey Arbitration Competition of Canada a success
Founder of the event Nick Rossi, left, and chairman/author Amir Torabi.

On Oct. 24 and 25, 32 teams of law students converged in the iconic University College at the University of Toronto to compete in the third annual Hockey Arbitration Competition of Canada presented by the Sports and Entertainment Law Society at the Faculty of Law. Founded in 2012 by UofT law grad Nick Rossi, the competition consists of simulated salary arbitration hearings with teams representing either a National Hockey League club or player.

This year’s event welcomed teams from law schools across the nation and for the first time included two American teams.

Prior to event day, teams prepared three separate briefs outlining the arguments for their respective side. These briefs were subsequently marked as a piece of written advocacy, which determined the matchups for the round robin.

On Day 1, teams competed in three separate hearings in order to determine the salaries of Cody Franson of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Lars Eller of the Montreal Canadiens, and Derick Brassard of the New York Rangers. Each of these players was arbitration eligible this past summer during the NHL off-season.

Teams competed in front of guest arbitrators ranging from partners at Bay St. firms to player agents, to hockey executives.

The guest arbitrators grilled the teams for 36 minutes, in an attempt to test their oral advocacy skills. After the hearing was complete, teams received a rubric with a total score and had the opportunity to get comprehensive feedback from their arbitrators.

At the end of Day 1, eight teams had survived the round robin and returned to the campus the next day to compete in the finals.

The playoffs quickly narrowed down the teams to the final two, who competed in front of an all-star panel of arbitrators: Brian Burke, president of hockey operations for the Calgary Flames; Don Meehan, president of Newport Sports Management Inc.; and Cliff Hart, a partner from Borden Ladner Gervais LLP.

After a tough 45 minutes in front of a packed house, Sean DelGiallo and Devon McIntyre from the Western University law school defeated Fraser Malcolm and Tyler Henderson from UofT.

Following the finals, a sports law panel was held for the enjoyment of the law students in the audience. David Goldstein, an associate at Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP, moderated a lengthy conversation on the use of analytics in salary arbitration, the potential for NHL expansion in the near future, the unionization of minor league or college athletes, and off-ice player issues in the NHL.

Trevor Whiffen, a partner at Dickinson Wright and co-chairman of the PrimeTime Sports Management Conference, was able to provide insight into the legal difficulties that would be faced by the potential unionization by minor-league athletes.

André Nowakowski, a partner at Miller Thomson LLP and seasoned labour and employment lawyer, highlighted the issues with the current collective bargaining agreement when it comes to dealing with off-ice player conduct as we have seen so recently in the NHL.

Burke and Meehan were able to provide competing viewpoints regarding the use of analytics in salary arbitrations. Burke, who proudly proclaimed he has only ever had one player go to arbitration because of his strict deadlines before the hearing, seemed skeptical the stats would be any more useful than other statistics. Meehan embraced the idea as a tool that could be used to benefit his clients.

The panel concluded what proved to be the most successful installment of this competition in the event’s young existence. When asked about why this type of event has such a large pull across the country Rossi said, “This event is unique in Canada in that students have an opportunity to argue actual cases in front of an impressive list of industry professionals — some of whom worked on these cases in real life.

“In fact, an impressive showing by competitors can go a long way as students build lasting networking relationships with their fellow competitors and the guest arbitrators. I would not be surprised if students start landing jobs based on their performance at the competition.”

The steering committee of the competition is keen on improving the event and continuing to expand its reach. It consists of Michael Alvaro, a UofT undergraduate alumnus and University of Windsor law alumnus, UofT law alumni Chris Travascio, and Adrian Battiston.

With the support of title sponsor Miller Thomson LLP, and supporting partners Porter Airlines, PrimeTime Sports and Entertainment, and Dickinson Wright, as well as a list of impressive guest arbitrators, it seems the event has the right kind of momentum. Be sure to check out the event web site and stay tuned for next year’s installment.

Amir Torabi is a second-year law student at the University of Toronto and chairman of the two-day event.

On Oct. 24 and 25, 32 teams of law students converged in the iconic University College at the University of Toronto to compete in the third annual Hockey Arbitration Competition of Canada presented by the Sports and Entertainment Law Society at the Faculty of Law. Founded in 2012 by UofT law grad Nick Rossi, the competition consists of simulated salary arbitration hearings with teams representing either a National Hockey League club or player.

 

This year’s event welcomed teams from law schools across the nation and for the first time included two American teams.

 

Prior to event day, teams prepared three separate briefs outlining the arguments for their respective side. These briefs were subsequently marked as a piece of written advocacy, which determined the matchups for the round robin.

 

On Day 1, teams competed in three separate hearings in order to determine the salaries of Cody Franson of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Lars Eller of the Montreal Canadiens, and Derick Brassard of the New York Rangers. Each of these players was arbitration eligible this past summer during the NHL off-season.

 

Teams competed in front of guest arbitrators ranging from partners at Bay St. firms to player agents, to hockey executives.

 

The guest arbitrators grilled the teams for 36 minutes, in an attempt to test their oral advocacy skills. After the hearing was complete, teams received a rubric with a total score and had the opportunity to get comprehensive feedback from their arbitrators.

 

At the end of Day 1, eight teams had survived the round robin and returned to the campus the next day to compete in the finals.

 

The playoffs quickly narrowed down the teams to the final two, who competed in front of an all-star panel of arbitrators: Brian Burke, president of hockey operations for the Calgary Flames; Don Meehan, president of Newport Sports Management Inc.; and Cliff Hart, a partner from Borden Ladner Gervais LLP.

 

After a tough 45 minutes in front of a packed house, Sean DelGiallo and Devon McIntyre from the Western University law school defeated Fraser Malcolm and Tyler Henderson from UofT.

 

Following the finals, a sports law panel was held for the enjoyment of the law students in the audience. David Goldstein, an associate at Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP, moderated a lengthy conversation on the use of analytics in salary arbitration, the potential for NHL expansion in the near future, the unionization of minor league or college athletes, and off-ice player issues in the NHL.

 

Trevor Whiffen, a partner at Dickinson Wright and co-chairman of the PrimeTime Sports Management Conference, was able to provide insight into the legal difficulties that would be faced by the potential unionization by minor-league athletes.

 

André Nowakowski, a partner at Miller Thomson LLP and seasoned labour and employment lawyer, highlighted the issues with the current collective bargaining agreement when it comes to dealing with off-ice player conduct as we have seen so recently in the NHL.

 

Burke and Meehan were able to provide competing viewpoints regarding the use of analytics in salary arbitrations. Burke, who proudly proclaimed he has only ever had one player go to arbitration because of his strict deadlines before the hearing, seemed skeptical the stats would be any more useful than other statistics. Meehan embraced the idea as a tool that could be used to benefit his clients.

 

The panel concluded what proved to be the most successful installment of this competition in the event’s young existence. When asked about why this type of event has such a large pull across the country Rossi said, “This event is unique in Canada in that students have an opportunity to argue actual cases in front of an impressive list of industry professionals — some of whom worked on these cases in real life.

 

“In fact, an impressive showing by competitors can go a long way as students build lasting networking relationships with their fellow competitors and the guest arbitrators. I would not be surprised if students start landing jobs based on their performance at the competition.”

 

The steering committee of the competition is keen on improving the event and continuing to expand its reach. It consists of Michael Alvaro, a UofT undergraduate alumnus and University of Windsor law alumnus, UofT law alumni Chris Travascio, and Adrian Battiston.

 

With the support of title sponsor Miller Thomson LLP, and supporting partners Porter Airlines, PrimeTime Sports and Entertainment, and Dickinson Wright, as well as a list of impressive guest arbitrators, it seems the event has the right kind of momentum. Be sure to check out the event web site [www.thehacc.ca] and stay tuned for next year’s installment.

Amir Torabi is a second-year law student at the University of Toronto and chairman of the two-day event.

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