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11-13-2012, 01:50 PM
Tim Wallach
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Pardon the long post, but I clipped this from the NHLPA's case vs. the Plymouth Whalers in the Van Ryn suit. It appears from this that the rule was changed mostly to prevent NHL prospects from getting to free agency earlier, but also to protect current CHLers from being bumped by "defectors" as Ward pointed out:

OHL eligibility rules permit each team to carry only three twenty-year-old, or “overage,” players.   Additionally, under the OHL's Rule 7.4, which is at the heart of this case, no overage player can be signed by an OHL team unless he was previously on a Canadian Hockey Association (“CHA”) or USA Hockey Player's Registration the previous season.   The National College Athletic Association (“NCAA”) does not permit players holding either type of registration to play at a NCAA school.   These two rules-the OHL rule requiring overage players to have a been on a CHA or USA Hockey Registration, and the NCAA rule barring players with either of those registrations-combine to prevent OHL teams from signing any twenty-year-old NCAA players, because such a player would not have been permitted by the NCAA to have obtained the registration required by the OHL of twenty-year-old players.

Rule 7.4 is commonly referred to as the “Van Ryn Rule.” Mike Van Ryn (“Van Ryn”) was a University of Michigan hockey player when he was drafted by the New Jersey Devils, an NHL team, in June 1998.   Pursuant to the Collective Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”) between the NHL and the NHLPA, the Devils thus obtained the rights to Van Ryn for one year, at which point, if the Devils failed to sign Van Ryn, he would become an unrestricted free agent.   Under the terms of the CBA,1 those rights would only be extended past one year if Van Ryn remained in NCAA competition, or went to play for a non-affiliated hockey league.

Van Ryn remained in NCAA competition at the University of Michigan for one year following the draft, which extended the Devils' rights to him for one year.   He then signed with the Sarnia Sting, an OHL club.   The OHL is affiliated with the NHL, and therefore, the Devils' rights to Van Ryn were not extended by Van Ryn's signing with the Sting.   Van Ryn thus became an unrestricted free agent in June 2000, and signed a three-year contract with the NHL's St. Louis Blues.   Had Van Ryn not played in an affiliated league for the year during which the Devils had exclusive rights to him, his only path to free agency would have been to sit out for the season.

The Devils, with the support of the NHL, attempted to declare Van Ryn a “defected player” ineligible for free agency, but an arbitrator rejected this effort.   Within two months of the arbitration decision and Van Ryn's signing with the Blues, the OHL adopted the “Van Ryn Rule.” Unsurprisingly, Plaintiffs regard the adoption of the rule as an attempt to prevent other NCAA players from achieving free agency via the route traveled by Van Ryn. Defendants dispute this motive, and note that a rule similar to the Van Ryn Rule, which prevented overage players from playing in the OHL if they had not played there as nineteen-year-olds, was in effect from 1992 to 1998.   David Branch, the OHL Commissioner, has stated that the rule was implemented because, given that “the opportunities for overage players are obviously limited by OHL rules, it seemed fitting and appropriate to include those players who had given the OHL their time and talent over a number of years and to exclude those who had not done so.”

Defendants also point out that former NCAA players who will not turn twenty before December 31 of any season may play in the OHL. However, pursuant to Section 8.4 of the CBA, players generally must be at least nineteen years old to be selected in the NHL Entry Draft. Thus, few NCAA players who have been drafted by an NHL team will be able to sign with an OHL team and follow the path taken by Mike Van Ryn to unrestricted free agency.

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