The University of Toronto Sports and Entertainment Law Society (SELS) hosted its third annual Hockey Arbitration Competition of Canada (HACC) on Friday, and Saturday, October 24 and 25.
Administered exclusively by U of T law students, the HACC is a moot competition, for law students, that simulates the salary arbitration procedures used in the National Hockey League (NHL).
This year, 32 teams from 15 law schools across North America participated, and U of T law student Amir Torabi acted as the competition’s chair. The teams were judged by associates and partners from various law firms, NHL player agents, sports executives, and, most notably Brian Burke, former Toronto Maple Leafs general manager and current Calgary Flames president of hockey operations.
The competition was divided into two days. On the first day — Friday, October 24 — teams were randomly divided into two conferences of 16 teams. Then, each conference was randomly divided into two divisions of eight teams. The three players or cases selected for this year’s competition were Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman, Cody Franson; Montreal Canadiens forward, Lars Eller; and New York Rangers forward, Derick Brassard, actual NHL players who were arbitration eligible during the summer of 2014.
Teams were then assigned to a side in each case — either the player’s or club’s side. Depending on which side the teams were appointed to, their objective was to either argue if the player was worth above or below the midpoint salary. Furthermore, teams were judged and scored based on their briefs and oral arguments. Teams with the best record in each conference advanced from the preliminary rounds to the semi-finals.
The finals of the competition was conducted on the second day of the competition. The two teams left vying for the HACC trophy were from U of T and the University of Western Ontario. The three guest arbitrators who judged the finals were Clifford Hart, a partner from Borden Ladner Gervais; Don Meehan, president of Newport Sports Management; and Brian Burke, president of hockey operations for the Calgary Flames.
In the finals, the team from U of T was assigned to the players side and the task of arguing that the player was above the midpoint salary. Meanwhile the team from the University of Western Ontario were assigned to the club’s side and the task of arguing that the player was below the midpoint salary. The salary arbitration case examined for the finals was New York Rangers forward, Derick Brassard.
After the teams presented and demonstrated their arguments and rebuttals, the three judges deemed — by the narrowest of margins and even after consideration of a tie — that the University of Western Ontario was the winners. Brian Burke noted how exceptional the participants were from both side, commenting on the strengths and cogency of their arguments. The winners won two round trip flights in North America and two passes to this year’s Prime Time Sports Management Conference.
Indeed, the event’s success is evident. Since debuting in 2012, the number of participants competing in the HACC has significantly increased and has attracted prominent leaders in the sports industry. More importantly, the law students competing gain an invaluable experience.
“This type of event enables practical experience in the sports industry,” said HACC founder and chair of the steering committee, Nick Rossi.
The steering committee “is a group that provides guidance to the student organizers,” explained Rossi. The committee consists of Rossi; Mike Alvaro, a U of T undergraduate alumnus and University of Windsor law school alumnus; Chris Travascio, a U of T law alumnus; and Adrian Battiston, a U of T law alumnus.
Devon McIntyre of the winning members of the University of UWO, reiterated how valuable participating and competing was: “The level of competition, panels, and guest arbitrators were phenomenal.”
The competition concluded with a sports law symposium. The panel included Trevor Whiffen, governor of the London Knights; André Nowakowski, partner at Miller Thompson; Don Meehan; and Brian Burke. Moderated by David Goldstein, the panel discussed topical issues in sports today: the value of sports analytics, implications of NHL expansion teams, domestic violence policies, and amateur sports policies.