The WHL is demanding arena improvements in Kennewick.
The Western Hockey League gets virtually no attention from the United States sports media, yet there are a couple of stories that should be followed. The Tri-City Americans franchise located in eastern Washington has a problem. The team’s arena is not up to WHL standards. Tri-City is a for profit business yet the players on the team who range from 16 to 21 years of age don’t have to get paid. Tri-City owners have to figure out their next move after Kennewick voters said no to a sales tax hike to pay for improvements at the rink. The WHL has given the team owners and Kennewick notice, get the improvements done at the rink by the beginning of the 2019-2020 season or else. What that or else means is anybody’s guess.
Meanwhile, Washington’s Minimum Wage Act does not consider junior hockey players in Everett, Seattle, Spokane and Tri City team employees. Sixteen to 21 year olds working in Washington are employees but junior hockey players who are “at least 16 years old but under 21 years old, in his or her capacity as a player for a junior ice hockey team that is a member of a regional, national, or international league and that contracts with an arena owned, operated, or managed by a public facilities district” aren’t. The players get as little as $35 a week in expenses to play junior hockey and have been trying to change that through the legal system. The Canadian Hockey League which is the governing body of junior hockey in Canada and parts of the United States is against paying teenagers and claims some teams will go out of business if the players get paid. Meanwhile the WHL wants arena upgrades which generally puts more money in an owner’s pocket and wants local residents to pay for arena renovations whether they support hockey or not. It’s just business.
Seattle has a Western Hockey League team.