Ultra Vires


The Good Ol’ HACCkey Game: 3rd Annual Competition a Success

By Nick Rossi (UT Law Class of 2013)

On October 24th and 25th, the University of Toronto Sports and Entertainment Law Society (SELS) hosted its third annual Hockey Arbitration Competition of Canada (HACC).

Administered exclusively by U of T law students, the HACC is a moot competition designed for law students interested in sports law. The competition simulates the salary arbitration procedures used in the National Hockey League (NHL).

This year’s edition of the HACC attracted 32 teams from 15 law schools across North America and included its first two American teams. The teams were judged by associates and partners from various law firms, NHL player agents, and sports executives.

U of T Law student Amir Torabi (2L) served as this year’s Chair and enjoyed every minute of running the event: “Organizing this event was an absolute pleasure for a massive hockey fan like myself. It is an unprecedented opportunity for law students to speak about subject matter that is so familiar to them, in front of lawyers who share the same passion. All the while, students are improving their oral and written advocacy skills. It’s an all encompassing opportunity and memorable experience.”

Teams were randomly divided into four divisions of eight teams. They were then assigned to either the player or club’s side in each case. The three players/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. All three players were arbitration­eligible during the summer of 2014, and the salary that each player signed for during the summer was used as a midpoint for the competition. Depending on which side the teams were appointed to, their objective was to argue that the player was worth above or below the midpoint salary.

Each team competed in three matches on Friday, the 24th. The top two teams in each division (based on Friday’s performance) then advanced to the single­elimination playoffs on Saturday, the 25th. The teams were judged and scored based on their written briefs and oral arguments.

The closely­contested final match featured the Derick Brassard case; U of T battled the University of Western Ontario, with Western prevailing by the slimmest of margins and winning the HACC Trophy. Clifford Hart, a partner from Borden Ladner Gervais; Don Meehan, President of Newport Sports Management; and Brian Burke, former Toronto Maple Leafs’ General Manager and current President of Hockey Operations for the Calgary Flames judged the finals.

Fraser Malcolm, a member of the U of T team that competed in the finals, valued his experience at the competition: “The HACC was an amazing opportunity to develop and practice my advocacy skills. Getting to argue cases in front of some of the most senior practitioners in the field is a rare experience at law school ­ and being able to do it in the context of hockey so familiar to them, in front of lawyers who share the same passion. All the while, students arbitration made it all the more fun. I would encourage anyone to participate next year and hopefully a U of T team can finally take home the trophy!”

Thanks to the HACC’s sponsors, the winners won two round trip flights with Porter Airlines and two passes to this year’s PrimeTime Sports Management Conference.

The competition concluded with a sports law panel, which featured Trevor Whiffen, Governor of the London Knights; André Nowakowski, Partner at Miller Thomson; Don Meehan, a prominent hockey agent; and Brian Burke. Moderated by David Goldstein of Cassels Brock, the panel discussed hot issues facing hockey today, including the value of sports analytics, implications of NHL expansion teams, domestic violence policies, and amateur sports policies.

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 to both develop work product and network with industry professionals.

Nick Rossi graduated from U of T Law in 2013 and is currently an associate at Gibson & Barnes LLP.

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