By Geneen Pipher, Hockey VIPs Magazine
October 30, 2015
The Kontinental Hockey League’s Disciplinary Committee has issued a long-awaited decision in the case of a group of former Medvescak Zagreb players who filed a grievance with the KHL Players’ Trade Union against the club alleging they were owed thousands of dollars in back salary.
Hockey VIPs Magazine has obtained a copy of the ruling, which confirms the Medvescak Zagreb hockey club owes nearly $600,000 in salary to 12 players who suited up for the team during the 2014-15 season and orders the team to pay up by October 31, 2015.
According to the document:
“HC Medvescak acknowledged the existence of its indebtedness to the players and sent to the Disciplinary Committee the information regarding the amount of these debts. As of September, 29, 2015, the club has not paid the debt to the hockey players.”
The amounts owed to individual players range from $13,618 up to $71,970.
Canadian goaltender Mark Dekanich, who has become a de facto spokesman for the group, said the players were informed of the decision last week but he and the others have yet to have any communication with the club. None of the 12 has received any payment since their paychecks stopped coming toward the end of last season. Most are owed between two and three months’ salary.
‘They’ll Try to Get Out of It’
The ruling gives Medvescak what one player called a “loophole” to escape the October 31 deadline. The document states that either side could appeal the ruling within seven days of the issuance of the Disciplinary Committee’s final decision, which occurred October 20. Dekanich said that to his knowledge the club has not exercised its right to appeal and the deadline to do so has now passed.
“I am sure they are going to try to get out of it in some way,” Dekanich said in an interview with Hockey VIPs Magazine. “Whether it’s simply avoidance or just trying to extend it until they actually do go bankrupt and leave the league and by that time all the money is gone. And they’ve gotten what they’ve wanted and sort of screwed everyone else.”
Dekanich, his agent Steve Bartlett, and other sources Hockey VIPs Magazine has spoken to say the players receive precious little information on their own case and inquiries to the club, the KHL Players’ Trade Union and other officials in charge are seldom — if ever — acknowledged.
“The team has not reached out to any of us regarding that document [the Disciplinary Committee’s ruling] or anything else,” Dekanich said. “I’ve tried to be in touch with the players’ union — the person who we were in contact with — without any response. So we are just waiting on that date [October 31], I’m sure it is just going to come and go as if nothing happened and we are going to have to figure out where we go from there.”
Andrei Kovalenko, the head of the KHL Players’ Trade Union, said in a recent interview that the union is doing what it can to pressure delinquent clubs to solve their debt problems.
Artem Bazhenov, a sports attorney affiliated with the KHL Players’ Trade Union who is working to help the group of 12, said in a brief statement to Hockey VIPs Magazine that he and Kovalenko — like the players — are waiting to see what happens on Saturday.
Dekanich said he has small hope the situation will be resolved anytime soon.
“After all this I have no reason to believe [the team] follows any type of rules or any decision handed out by anyone,” he said. “There is something weird going on with them being allowed to play this whole time [while] the league fully knows the extent of what they’re doing. [ed. note: KHL rules state that all member clubs must clear the previous season’s debts in order to remain in the league] Again I don’t know what it is — I can’t really speculate what it is — but there is something weird going on, you know that, I think we all know that.”
One player, who asked not to be named, said he enjoyed his time in the KHL until he stopped getting paid. Now, he says all he wants is the money he and the others rightfully earned.
“I just want to get paid — that’s the honest truth,” he said. “The KHL was great to me at the time. Now it’s just dealing with this issue. Zagreb was fun for a while. I don’t care about bashing the club or the league. If we have to that’s OK, but honestly I just want to get paid.”
Dekanich said he and his wife moved to Zagreb with high hopes and a sense of excitement to see the world. And for nearly two seasons, he said he enjoyed his time, experiencing life in Europe and playing on a team composed of mostly North Americans.
“At the time everyone who went over there … we were looking forward to it,” he said. “We thought it was a great opportunity. We got to see the world. It was the last thing on our minds that the team was going to not pay us wages and salary that we earned over the course of our time with them. It certainly didn’t cross my mind. Especially going over there when the team was a part of the KHL, which is allegedly the second best league in the world.”
He said his memories of his time in Europe have been tarnished and his life since leaving the KHL has been affected.
“I think about it everyday,” he said. “It affects my home life, it affects my financial decisions, it affects my career and my life, it’s terrible. You know, I have been dealing with it way too long, it should not happen. Stuff like this does not happen in North America.”
Photographs: Courtesy of Mark Dekanich; Medvescak Zagreb
Translations: Tatiana Markina