Should We Revise Our Amateur Laws?

W. G. HARDY November 1 1936

Should We Revise Our Amateur Laws?

W. G. HARDY November 1 1936

Should We Revise Our Amateur Laws?



LAST SPRING the delegates to the annual meeting of the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association unanimously passed a resolution that the definition of an amateur, so far as hockey in Canada is concerned, be broadened to provide that :

1. Hockey players may capitalize on their ability as hockey players for the purpose of obtaining legitimate employment.

2. Hockey players may accept from their clubs or employers payment for time lost, from work while competing on behalf of their clubs.

3. Amateur hockey teams may play exhibition games against professional teams under such conditions as may be laid down by the individual branches of the C.A.H.A.

4. Professionals in other branches of sport may be jjermitted to play on amateur hockey teams.

This action produced quite a furore; a furore, one feels, quite out of proportion to the significance and importance of these four proposals. However, since the charge has been made that these proposals violate completely the principles of amateurism, it is worth while to consider both their actual implications and the history of how they came into being.

Their genesis dates back to the annual meeting of the C.A.H.A. which was held at Halifax in the spring of 1935. At this gathering there was a general feeling among the delegates that the definition of an amateur incorporated in the regulations of the Amateur Athletic Union of Canada had in it absurdities which needed to be rectified and that, furthermore, the definition was out of date and did not meet the needs and realities of present-day sport in the Dominion. In consequence, a committee of five, headed by Mr. Duncan, now president of the C.A.H.A., was appointed to draw up proposals for the redefinition of amateur status and to present these to the next annual meeting of the Amateur Union. It should be pointed out. in passing, that the C.A.H.A. is a member of the Amateur Union and has the right to propose changes in the constitution of the latter body.

The committee held informal discussions with Mr. Fry, the president of the Amateur Union, during which he agreed verbally that the committee’s proposals would be given a hearing at the Union’s next annual meeting. At the annual meeting of the Union in November, 1935. however, when the proposals were formally presented, it was ruled that they came, not from the C.A.H.A. but only from a committee. In consequence of this ruling on a technicality, the C.A.H.A. amendments were not given a hearing before the Union.

This was the situation when, as Mr. Roxborough puts it, the “hockey barons” met last spring in the Royal York Hotel in Toronto. The delegates present felt that, in some way or other, they had been given a “run-around” by the “King Johns” of the Amateur Union. In consequence, they

were ready to pass the four proposals in toto. At this point, however, Mr. Fry, who as a life member of the C.A.H.A. was present, requested that action be deferred until a committee of the C.A.H.A. met with such other members of the Amateur Union as he could assemble.

Mr. Fry's Promise

' I 'IIIS MEETING was held the next day. In it there was unanimous agreement to the first three of the proposals of the C.A.H.A.—and it might be noted that this included the express agreement of Mr. Fry, the president of the Amateur Union. On the fourth proposal there was a division of opinion. At this point—and this fact became important later—Mr. Fry offered to take a mail vote of the branches and allied members of the Amateur Union to ascertain their feeling toward each and all of the four proposals, and to report the result of such a vote to the president of the C.A.H.A. by July 1. Mr. Fry and the writer of this article were then appointed by the joint meeting to draft the form of the mail vote.

This was reported to the general meeting of the C.A.H.A. Since the temper of the joint meeting seemed to indicate that there was every likelihood of at least the first three of the proposals being adopted by the Amateur Union, and since the delegates felt that matters had been so arranged at the meeting of the Amateur Union in the previous November that the proposals had already been sidetracked for one playing season, the general meeting approved the report, and also provided that in the interim period until July 1 the proposals should be in operation in the C.A.H.A. It was further decided that, in case the vote of the Amateur Union was adverse, the Executive Committee of the C.A.H.A. should be given power to take whatever action appeared advisable to them in accordance with the feeling of the general meeting.

So far, so good. Now comes the wool in the soup. On April 18, at the request of Mr. Fry, the writer of this article prepared a draft of the letter for the mail vote on the proposals, and sent it to Mr. Fry for his revision and comments. From that day to this the writer has not heard from Mr. Fry. Instead, after the hockey executive was disbanded Mr. Fry released to the press a letter to Mr. Duncan, president of the C.A.H.A., in which he announced that he had changed his mind and that he would not take the mail vote of the Amateur Union which he had promised to take at the joint informal meeting of the Amateur Union and the C.A.H.A. Committee.

What induced Mr. Fry to repudiate his public undertaking is not clear. What is certain, however, is that this repudiation of his has complicated the situation regarding the four projxjsals in an entirely unnecessary way. It explains, for instance.

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Should We Revise Amateur Laws?


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why there has arisen a controversy between the C.A.H.A. and certain officials of the Amateur Union. It also indicates why the C.A.H.A. has, as Mr. Roxborough expresses it, held a gun to the officials of the Amateur Union—-not to the Amateur Union itself, since the C.A.H.A. is a body affiliated with the Amateur Union. It is, too, a justification of the widespread feeling that it is needlessly difficult to get proposals before the Amateur Union.

What Is An Amateur?

'THIS historical sketch may serve to •*explain why a controversy has grown up around the hockey association’s proposals. When we turn to the proposals themselves, however, it is difficult to understand why any of them, with the possible exception of the second, should be regarded as so revolutionary as Mr. Roxborough appears to consider them. The last of them, tinsuggestion that professionals in another line of sport should Inregarded as amateurs in hockey, as a matter of fact, was thoroughly discussed at the November meeting of the Amateur Union, being brought forward in amendments from other bodies.

In the discussion preceding its defeat it was pointed out that the practice in Great Britain varied. In swimming, for instance, a British athlete does not lose his amateur status by taking part in competition with or against professionals. The same is true of British cricket and association football, and also of British track and field events when the athlete is competing

with or against professionals from association football. This, in itself, is enough to lay the bogey of Canada being debarred from international and Olympic competition if the Canadian Amateur Union permits its athletes to play with or against professionals.

In addition, it. should be noted that the Amateur Union of the United States has an elastic code in this regard, and that the Amateur Union of Canada itself lists certain sports as “pastimes,” including cricket, tennis, golf and soccer, and provides that in these “pastime” sports at hletes may compte with or against professionals without injuring their amateur status in the slightest degree.

Just what the distinction is which makes soccer and tennis a pastime in which no harm can be incurred by playing with or against pros, and makes hockey a game in which an amateur who competes with or against a pro at once loses his amateur status, is not clear. To the “hockey barons” it seems an absurdity; and hockey is not alone in its feeling. Nor does hockey have any idea that the acceptance of its proposal in this regard will be of any financial benefit to itself. It simply believes that here there is an absurdity and inconsistency in the definition of amateur status which should be rectified; that is, unless there is a feeling that when a player becomes a pro he becomes somehow like pitch, and whatever amateur player comes in touch with him will be defiled.

This feeling, in fact, appears to lie at the basis of the regulations made to prevent the intermingling of pros and amateurs.

Until comparatively recently "once a pro, always a pro” was the dictum of the Amateur Union; to such a degree, indeed, that if an amateur player so much as skated on to the ice while professionals were practising, in the twinkling of a skate-blade he became a pro himself. In the past few years, with hockey supplying at least part of the pressure, this has been modified. Hockey players may now, with the consent of the C.A.H.A., try out with pro hockey teams, and if unsuccessful return undefiled to the amateur fold. Similarly it has been agreed that a pro who has stopped professional competition may, after a three years sanitation period, be reinstated as an amateur. Hockey is simply suggesting that the remaining inconsistencies with respect to the contact of pros and amateurs should be ironed out and a common-sense view be taken of the situation.

The same arguments in the large apply to the third proposal, that amateur hockey teams may play exhibition games against pro teams. It is already provided that this may be done if the consent of the branch of the Amateur Union involved is obtained, as well as the consent of the body governing the sport concerned. All that hockey is asking here is that permission for such exhibition games be placed directly in the power of the hockey branch involved.

Payment For Lost Time

'T'HE FIRST and second proposals are in a different category. It is provided in the present definition of an amateur that no athlete can retain his amateur status if he has “received any bonus or payment in lieu of loss of time while playing as a member of any club or engaged in any athletic sport or exercise, or any consideration whatever for any service as an athlete except actual travelling or hotel expenses;” or if he has “taught or

assisted in the pursuit of any athletic exercise or sport as a means of livelihood.”

These clauses are usually interpreted as preventing an athlete from securing employment because of his athletic ability, as well as precluding him from receiving compensation for loss of time incurred while playing for his club. Mr. Roxborough seems to suggest, too, that these clauses have led to duplicity in Canadian sport and to many players becoming perjurers. To the “hockey barons” it seems possible that these clauses in the definition of an amateur are hangovers from the days when only gentlemen with independent means were supposed to engage in sport, and when the workingman was thought to have quite enough to do in keeping body and soul together without dissipating his energies by chasing a football or swatting a cricket ball.

If this is the case, the clauses are obviously not suited to present-day conditions. In Canada, sport is democratic and knows no barriers of race, creed or caste. The “hockey barons,” at least, cannot see why a hockey player, in accordance with their first proposal, should not be permitted to utilize his hockey ability to secure legitimate employment. It is granted that there may be a certain amount of wastage under the system. But then there is always wastage under any system, and it seems to be a just and fair proposal that a hockey player, in this era of the depression, should be allowed to capitalize on his athletic ability to the extent of securing legitimate employment—and once again may I emphasize the word “legitimate”?

Over and beyond this the fact is that the practice does exist in the sport world of Canada. And not only in Canada. Does anyone really think that the amateur hockey teams of Great Britain and the United States, without, so far as I know, any protest from their respective amateur unions, are able to import each year a

very considerable number of our Canadian amateur hockey players merely because such players are anxious to show the British and the Yankees how hockey should be played?

The attitude of the C.A.H.A. here then is that, since it does not believe that there is anything inherently wrong in the practice, it is better to come out into the open ard face the realities and needs of presentd?.y hockey as they are.

This same attitude lies behind the most contentious of the C.A.H.A. proposals the suggestion that hockey players may accept from their clubs or their employers payment for time lost from work while competing on behalf of their clubs. Once again hockey feels that this is an eminently fair proposal. There have been occasions during hockey plavdowns when teams have been absent from their homes for from three to five weeks—and hockey players are not, on the whole, rich men or the sons of rich men. If their clubs or their employers are willing to recompense them for the time and money which they have lost while away playing hockey, it does not seem just that tins should jeopardize or destroy their amateur status.

Moreover, the regulation of such payment, in accordance with the suggestion made at the meeting called by Mr. Fry ard already referred to, was to be left in the hands of the various bodies governing the sports affected. There is little doubt that in certain other sports as well as in hockey the practice of compensation for broken time, as well as the practice of giving athletes jobs because of their athletic ability, already exists. Here again the Hockey Association prefers to come out into the ojien and, since it does not see anything radically wrong or contrary to the spirit of amateurism in the jirojiosal, to face the facts and realities as they are. Surely, it is better for amateurism to face

facts as they are and to legislate honestly to meet them, than for these practices to be carried out under cover and in hypocrisy.

So far as the bogey of international alliances is concerned, the C.A.H.A. feels that it is its duty to legislate primarily for the good of hockey in Canada. It also feels that the practices of the various countries concerned are so divergent that the International Olympic Committee has already jiermitted wide differences of procedure. Canada’s oarsmen, for instance, according to press rejiorts. on their return from this year’s Olympics, stated bluntly that we must “never forget that Eurojiean oarsmen are paid by somebody —and directly or indirectly that means governments-to row,” while Judge Jackson of the Canadian Amateur Union is stated to have remarked that “We refuse to permit payment to athletes for time lost from work. Are we behind the times? Just a few miles behind Eurojie.” Mr. Fry himself, if the press report is correct, recently declared that “Sjiort in Germany is controlled, directed and jiaid for by the Government. The youth of Canada would be better off if we had something of the kind here.”

Then, why this objection to hockey's suggestion that its players may be recomjiensed for loss of time incurred while playing for their respective clubs? And how can Mr. Roxborough argue that the adoption of this jirojiosal necessarily means the loss of Canada’s international and Olympic affiliations? If Eurojiean governments are paying their athletes at the present moment for the time sjient by them in sjiort training—which, in effect, must mean that any athletes who have emjiloyment are being jiaid for the time lost from their emjiloyment—and if this did not prevent those Eurojiean athletes from jiarticijiating in the Olympic Games just jiast, how can Canada be debarred for allowing her athletes to receive comjiensa-

tion for loss of time incurred while engaged in sjxirt ?

In any case, the C.A.H.A. would argue again that it is its business to legislate tor the good of hockey in Canada, and that international competitions are at best only a secondary consideration. It would argue further that Canada has a right to bring forward changes in the rules for Olympic and international competitions, and that, as was remarked at the November meeting of the Amateur Union, before now Canada has initiated changes which have later been incorjxirated in the international rules. The principle which the C.A.H.A. wishes to follow is that in Canadian hockey the facts and realities of the situation should be faced fairly and honestly, and that ojien and above-board legislation should be framed to meet them.

Facts Should He Faced

THIS LAST statement leads me to reply to one or two of the scattered assertions which, although not germane to the main argument, are dotted throughout Mr. Roxborough’s article. One ol these is the charge that the “new deal” in hockey was born in hyjxicrisy and that the C.A.H.A. should have dropjied the word "amateur” from its title.

To this 1 would answer that, although the C.A.H.A., like any healthy organization, does not lack discussion and ditlerences of opinion at its annual meetings, the delegates are at one in their endeavor to face facts and realities as they are, without any hypocrisy or deception. The frankness of the four projiosals should in themselves show this.

Furthermore, as has already been jiointed out, the four projiosals are not at variance with projiosals which have been jiresented from time to time at meetings of the Amateur Union. In other words, other bodies than hockey have projiosed

redefinitions of amateur status and have remained in good standing as amateur organizations.

Mr. Roxborough has also retened to the finances of the C.A.H.A. 1 should like to jxiint out first, quite definitely, that the financial statements of the C.A.H.A. are available at its annual meetings, and that the exjienses of its delegates are jiaid at the same rate as the jiayments made for travelling and hotel expenses to its Allan Cup and Memorial Cup play-down teams. In addition, it should be noted that these jiayments to travelling clubs provide one answer to Mr. Roxborough’s cheerful jiicture of why the Kimberley and Sudbury clubs were able to meet in Winnipeg last April and the Saskatoon Wesleys to travel to Toronto.

In recent years the C.A.H.A. has in fact lost heavily in the conducting ot the Memorial and Allan Cuji jilay-downs. It has also turned thousands ol dollars over to its branches for the jiromotion ot Junior, Juvenile and Midget hockey. 11 the C.A.H.A. is in “big business” when it handles its Dominion-wide jilay-olts, it still has jilenty of room inside it for the “corner gang, the church group, the alma mater crowd” and the smaller towns of Mr. Roxborough’s article. The Alberta branch, for instance, has been following the policy of jiutting up dollar for dollar with the C.A.H.A. grant. This money is sjient in buying equipment for the Midgets and Juveniles and in heljiing the Midget and Juvenile clubs finance themselves in the Provincial Championship series. The C.A.H.A. is still jirimarily interested in the fostering and encouraging of amateur hockey in Canada. Incidentally, these payments to branches and the cost of conducting the Allan and Memorial Cup play-downs, plus the exjiense of sending Canadian hockey teams to the last two Olympic Games—note here that the C.A.H.A. jiays all the costs of its Olympic

clubs—afford the real explanation for the depletion in the reserve fund of the C.A.H.A. Last winter’s Olympic Games cost the C.A.H.A. close to $6,000.

Present-day Needs

THERE ARE one or two other realities in Canadian hockey to which brief reference should be made. We find, for example, that there are thousands of dollars tied up in rinks and equipment. In spite of Mr. Roxborough’s argument, if Canada is to remain pre-eminent in hockey, these rinks and this equipment are necessary. We also discover that in these days spectators, particularly in junior and senior competitions, demand good hockey before they pay out their money—and the sad fact is that without money not only the Allan and Memorial Cup series but also most of the worth-while hockey could not be played. Nor can the clock be turned back to the “good old days” of which Mr. Roxborough speaks. What suited the hockey of the horse-and-buggy era does not meet the needs and realities of this modern machine age.

Over and beyond this, as has been hinted, hockey players are becoming one of the regular exports of the Dominion. The C.A.H.A., recognizing that whether we like it or not this is the fact, is attempting to meet the situation. An agreement has already been signed with the British Ice Hockey Association which regulates the interchange of players with Great Britain, and gives a certain amount of protection to Canadian clubs as well as to Canadian players. Similar agreements have also been entered into with the Amateur Athletic Union of the United States and with the professional organizations, one provision common to all of them being that no junior player can be taken from a Canadian club. The C.A.H.A. feels that if these agreements can be put into effect it will have taken a long step forward in the protection of Canadian players and clubs.

One agrees then with Mr. Roxborough that the aim of Canada should be better and cleaner sports. The difference lies in the methods to be used in achieving this goal. The C.A.H.A. believes that the goal can be reached by coming out into the open and facing the realities and necessities of present-day sports in Canada, while allowing to a certain extent international affiliations and competitions to take care of themselves, particularly since, as I have pointed out, there is such a wide divergence in international amateur practice. It believes also that its four proposals are just in themselves, and that they are for the betterment of sport in Canada. It hopes that other bodies which govern other sports in Canada will support its point of view and help bring about what seem to be proper reforms. The fact that, as Mr. Roxborough suggests, certain other branches of sport have somewhat the same feeling as hockey, might indeed suggest, not a revolt against the Amateur Union but rather that some of the bodies allied with the Amateur Union realize the necessity for a redefinition of amateur status.

The C.A.H.A. indeed has no desire to “sock the Amateur Union” of which it is a part. It may feel, and does feel, that its projiosals have been treated by officials of the Amateur Union in a somewhat cavalier fashion and that, so far as hockey is concerned, there is no use in delaying the issue any longer. But it is its intention to bring its four proposals before the meeting of the Amateur Union which is to be held this fall, and to press for their inclusion in the constitution of that body. It will do this in the belief that a redefinition of amateur status is necessary for the good of sport in Canada.