10/31/2012 01:50 EDT | Updated 12/31/2012 05:12 EST

CHL player files complaint for unpaid wages

When he was playing for the Halifax Mooseheads, Joshua Desmond was just living his dream. But now, he's seeking compensation for his unpaid work.

In what might become a precedent-setting move, the 19-year-old hockey player filed a complaint with Nova Scotia's Labour Standards Division last Friday claiming he is owed "approximately $12,000" for playing for the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major League Hockey League last season.

Desmond is being supported in his complaint by a lawyer from the newly formed Canadian Hockey League Players' Association.

"I am filing this complaint because I was not being paid minimum wage," Desmond wrote on his complaint form, according to a story in the Toronto Star. "While I was playing, I never even thought of wages."

Desmond says he earned $48 per week for approximately 41 hours of work. He is currently playing for the Yarmouth Jr. A Mariners.

There are 60 teams in the Canadian Hockey League. Players are paid a weekly allowance that varies from $35 to $125 based on age.

If Desmond is successful in his complaint, the decision could open the door for thousands of Canadian Hockey League players to file similar claims worth millions of dollars in retroactive pay.

David Branch, president of the CHL, told the Star his league isn't in violation of any federal or provincial laws.

"We look upon our players as student athletes. We've never considered ourselves professional. We are under Hockey Canada, which is the recognized amateur sports-governing body."

In a French-language press release issued on Tuesday, the CHLPA warned this is just the beginning of the complaints.

"[The union] is preparing for Quebec players to take legal action with the Labour Standards Commission to ensure... they meet the minimum conditions of work in Quebec," the release said. "Other CHL teams will soon be covered by similar approaches."

CHLPA executive director Georges Laraque told the Star that unpaid wages aren't the union's ultimate goal, but rather a better scholarship program for those players who will not make the National Hockey League.

Under the current deal, a CHL player will receive a full-year guaranteed scholarship to a post-secondary institution of his choice for every season he plays in the league.

A player cannot access those funds, however, if he hasn't enrolled in an educational program within 18 months of leaving the league.