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Ron Robison, WHL commissioner, defends Canadian Hockey League scholarships

03/16/2015 03:32 EDT | Updated 05/16/2015 05:59 EDT
The commissioner of the Western Hockey League is standing by the current scholarship system for junior players amid criticisms too many players aren't eligible to receive the money.

"This year over 700 players across the country are benefiting from attending institutions on their choice on a full scholarship," Ron Robison told The Early Edition's Rick Cluff.

"This is the largest privately funded amateur sports program in Canada and it's something that's been funded entirely by our ownership."

The Champions Program, which was established in 2011 by the league, gives Canadian Hockey League players up to $10,000 toward tuition fees for each year of competition — if players enrol in a post-secondary program within 18 months of leaving the CHL.

The WHL is one of three leagues that makes up the CHL.

But the program has been criticized by top NHL agent J.P. Barry because player can be ineligible if they continue to play after junior hockey.

"If they play professional hockey in a lesser league in Europe, those scholarships are being voided,"  J.P. Barry, who represents big names including Sidney Crosby and Daniel and Henrik Sedin told The Early Edition last week.

Robison defends the program, saying that deadline was developed in consultation with parents and professionals to encourage players to go to post-secondary school.

"At some point, of course, academically, players who play and graduate from our league must be encouraged to continue on with their academics and that's something the professional advice that we've received has been very strong on," he said.

The CHL has also received criticism for how athletes are paid for games. A $180-million class action lawsuit launched last fall alleges players are paid between $35 and $50 per week for what amounts to full time work.

"The players are not employees, they're amateur athletes and therefore they're reimbursed for their expenses," said Robison.

To hear the full interview with Ron Robison, click the audio labelled: WHL Commissioner Ron Robison.

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