Detroit Red Wings

Anthony Mantha from the Detriot Red Wings.

Western's Entertainment and Sports Law Association hosted their eighth annual Western Law Hockey Arbitration Competition for law students with a passion for sports and a knack for persuasion.

The event simulates a National Hockey League arbitration case in which two teams representing an NHL team and a player attempt to persuade a neutral arbitrator to award the player a higher or lower salary on their next contract.

Sixteen teams competed in the finals of the event, which took place virtually just before Reading Week.

The event followed real-life NHL arbitration cases and the rules of procedure directly followed section 12.9 of the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Covering the contract of Anthony Mantha from the Detroit Red Wings, all teams were provided with information to form arguments around the 26-year-old forward. Teams used the comparisons of Max Domi from the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Colorado Avalanche’s Andre Burakovsky to make their case to the judges, with the option of using a third comparable of their choice.

This year’s event, organized by the associations' co-chairs and Law students Josh Rudolph and David Storey, took place online for the first time in the competition’s history.

In the preliminary round, Rudolph, Storey and guest judge Wes Clark — assistant director of player personnel for the Toronto Maple Leafs — chose two teams to participate in the finals.

The finals were judged by Rudolph and Storey once again, this time joined by guest judges Craig Oster and Krista Yip-Chuk. Oster, a Western law alum, is an NHL agent for star players such as Erik Karlsson and Henrik Lundqvist at Newport Sports. Yip-Chuck is a Western Law student and former member of both the Latvian National and Yale University women's hockey teams.

The simulated Detroit Red Wings, represented by Rheanna Geisel and Isaac Papsin, won the case in the finals with a contract value of $4.9 million. Finalists PJ Conlon and Daniel Gagliardi finished with a close second, playing the roles of Mantha’s agents.

“They were especially strong in the rebuttal period … in the finals,”  Rudolph noted about the winning team members. “They were able to rebut most of the points the other team made, so I thought they had the ability to think quickly on their feet.”

This year’s pool of participants looked different than in past years. A quarter of the teams included female participants, an increase from previous years. First-year law students also had a great showing, with both finalist teams falling into this category.

“In the years past, [the competition] is normally dominated by upper-year students just given they have competed before and they kind of know the inner workings of the competition, so we were incredibly impressed with the professionalism and poise that our first-year participants showed,” mentioned Rudolph. 

The winning team awaits information from the National Hockey Arbitration Competition of Canada in regard to the upcoming competition in March 2021.

This staple competition was created by the Entertainment and Sports Law Association at Western, founded in 2013. Initially formed by Will Edwards — who has since graduated from Western University — the club has only won first place at HACC in 2014.

“It's an opportunity for law students to work on their oral advocacy skills, but the difference with this is it’s a bit more fun and that they get to argue over hockey statistics rather than different case law,” said Rudolph.

After the moot trial, Oster spoke with the Law students, providing insight into the world of hockey signings, contracts and arbitration cases. This is Oster’s second guest appearance at Western’s competition.

“I think it was a really unique opportunity for our members and participants. It’s not super often that you get to speak to an agent, especially one of Craig’s calibre,” Rudolph commented on Oster’s insights. “Being a Western alumnus and at the peak of his profession, it’s something that all members aspire to.”

Anthony Mantha, the player the competition was based on, signed a deal with the Detroit Red Wings with an average annual value of $5.7 million shortly after the competition, marking similarities to the case’s mock contract terms.

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Jordan Bloom is a Sports Editor for Volume 114 of The Gazette. Email him at Jordan.bloom@westerngazette.ca or find him on twitter @JBloomSports

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