Non-Fan Tries Their Luck at the Hockey Arbitration Competition of Canada

Rabiya Mansoor (3L)

I’m not a hockey fan by any stretch of the imagination. Well, there was that time I was really into the Calgary Flameswhen, like the shameless bandwagoner I am, they made their Stanley Cup run in 2004. When I saw the Hockey Arbitration Competition of Canada (HACC) being advertised, I thought, “Heck yes! Arbitration! I love labour, so it’ll be like that, right?” Oh, how wrong I was.

While the basis for arbitration comes out of the collective agreement between the players and club, the most important factor for salary arbitration is other players. You take the stats of the player the arbitration is about and then find comparable stats from other players. The salaries of these comparable players are then used to argue if the player in question should be paid more or less than the midpoint salary. These “comparables” are what all three judges focused on. If you’ve got bad comparables, you’ve got a bad caseand have royally screwed your fake client, who is either the player or the club.

Finding good comparables was like looking for a needle in a haystack. Maybe one guy has a good plus/minus but a much lower shooting percentage and just god-awful powerplay goal totals in the playoffs (all hockey lingo that you, too, can learn in a single afternoon). And maybe this other guy has good comparable stats, but he is out because you’re representing the club and his salary is way too high. On the positive side, at least there is no actual law involved. A true novelty in law school, and one that I was happy to embrace.  

Even for a non-hockey fan, the HACC was an interesting and, dare I say, fun experience. The judges provided feedback not only on the nitty-gritty of our arguments (a.k.a. hard-hitting stats and comparables) but on our advocacy in general. They were pretty thorough with our written submissions and pointed out areas for improvement. During our oral submissions, they asked pointed questions. Probably like real life advocacy, you need to know every little thing about your case and your arguments, even if you only present one percent of your vast knowledge to the arbitrator. Otherwise you’ll end up like me, repeating, “I’m not sure at this time” ad nauseam.

The downside to the competition was the learning curve. Not only the stats, but also just hockey in general. The lingo that goes beyond the stats just seemed never-ending. What the heck is an offensive defenseman? How many starting lines are there? What stats are most important for each position? There was just too much to learn for a non-fan like me, especially since I needed that precious space in my brain for longform improv formats.

Overall, I’d give the HACC a score of four hockey sticks out of five.