TORONTO -- Canada's largest private sector union will likely hold a formal meeting early next week as it attempts to begin the process of representing major junior hockey players from around the country.
A Unifor spokesperson said internal meetings will be held Wednesday as the union continues to put leadership plans in place for the project. However, there are no firm plans to meet with players at this time.
"Once we feel that we have everything in order, then we'll call that meeting," said Unifor spokesperson Sarah Blackstock. "We don't want to rush into anything and I think the stakes are really high. The need for the union is great and so we've got to move carefully and make sure that we get it right."
Reached a short time later, Unifor president Jerry Dias said plans should be finalized in the coming days at a venue yet to be determined.
"We're just nailing down the details as to what it's going to look like, but my guess is we'll be ready to go next week," he said.
Unifor was created a year ago through the merger of the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers unions.
There was a failed attempt to unionize junior hockey players in Nova Scotia over a year ago. A would-be union withdrew its certification application with the provincial government in November 2012. Dias has said Unifor was approached by the failed union in June for help.
The creation of a board of directors and a legal entity are first on Unifor's to-do list. The union would aim to make improvements in several areas for players, including pay, restrictions on university scholarships and health insurance.
"We've always said and we strongly feel more than ever before that we serve the best interest of our players," OHL commissioner and CHL president David Branch told The Canadian Press. "We are always challenging ourselves on how we can better meet their needs, both as developing them as young people and as players, and we don't think a third party could do it better.
"So we're certainly committed to continue on with our programs as they currently exist."
There are 60 teams in the Canadian Hockey League, the umbrella organization for the Ontario Hockey League, Western Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.