An accounting firm claiming to represent at least 28 former NHL players, including Patrick Roy, Dale Hawerchuk, Dominik Hasek and Jeremy Roenick, has written to NHL Players’ Association executive director Don Fehr and the union’s executive board to demand financial information regarding prospective claims against the league for misreported revenue.
Under the NHL and NHLPA’s collective bargaining agreement, players receive 50 per cent of the league’s overall revenue, known as hockey-related revenue (HRR). When the union believes that the NHL has misreported revenue it has the ability to challenge the league in arbitration.
“We are writing to acquire the information necessary to evaluate and quantify the HRR refunds due to players who have played games from and including 2005 relating to a series of potential HRR claims,” Kyle Uemura, a partner with Los Angeles-based accounting firm Nigro, Karlin, Segal and Feldstein LLP wrote in a March 18 letter obtained by TSN.
According to a profile on his firm’s website, Uemura’s practice focuses on forensic accounting and he has performed audits on hundreds of motion picture and television projects.
Uemura’s letter comes after former NHLPA consultant Richard Rodier wrote multiple emails in recent months to Fehr, former players and the media detailing his concerns that the union has not properly investigated at least two potential HRR claims against the NHL.
Rodier, who once worked alongside BlackBerry co-founder Jim Balsillie in his failed attempt to buy several NHL teams, specializes in scrutinizing income statements and balance sheets. He began working for the NHLPA in 2011 and was fired in 2015.
Rodier wrote in a Feb. 13 email to Fehr that the two claims could be worth at least $1 billion. Rodier provided the email to TSN.
One claim involves the broadcast rights for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Rodier alleges that Bell Media and Rogers Communications (which are co-owners of the Maple Leafs’ parent company, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment) had paid a rights fee to the team that was “below fair market value.”
Rodier wrote that he was assured at a meeting with the NHLPA in May of 2018 that the union was gathering evidence related to the Leafs-related claim.
“I informed the NHLPA of the salient facts supporting the claim in January 2014, over 5 years ago,” Rodier wrote to Fehr. “I don’t know what the current status of the NHLPA’s evidence gathering operation is at this time.”
In his March 18 letter to Fehr, Uemura requested, “Information regarding the status of the results of the investigation you have undertaken into the claim brought to your attention regarding the Toronto Maple Leafs television contract. In the information you provide, please include a copy of any expert opinions obtained by the NHLPA regarding the valuation of this contract as compared to others, including but not exclusively the television contract of the Vancouver Canucks.”
Rodier also alleged in his Feb. 13 email to Fehr that NHL teams should have been declaring sales tax collected from non-ticket-related revenue as HRR.
“I think the reason the NHLPA is confused on this issue is because not all of the taxes that are collected are remitted to the government,” Rodier wrote to Fehr. “Taxes collected simply does not equal Taxes remitted.”
In his letter to Fehr and the NHLPA executive board, Uemura said he believes an HRR claim regarding tax collected by NHL teams has promise.
“Based on our analysis of the CBA and various other documents, letters and information, it is our belief that the tax claim is valid and defensible,” Uemura wrote.
NHLPA spokesman Jonathan Weatherdon wrote in an email to TSN on Tuesday that the union has already explored the potential tax claim.
“We carefully reviewed this claim months ago. It is not a valid HRR claim,” he wrote.
Weatherdon declined to say whether the NHLPA has pursued an HRR claim related to the Maple Leafs.
"The NHLPA ended its relationship with Richard Rodier in 2015," Weatherdon wrote. "He has no knowledge of what the NHLPA has done regarding the confidential HRR process since then."