King 5 News
OLYMPIA - Washington State's four Western Hockey League teams claimed victory on Monday, after Governor Jay Inslee signed a bill reclassifying the status of local hockey players.
The bill defines WHL players as amateurs, and eliminates any classification as employees. The bill was prompted after a complaint last year to the State Department of Labor and Industries that the teams violated child labor laws. The teams had argued that they provided free room and board, and a college scholarship to participating athletes.
The WHL operates teams in Kent (Seattle Thunderbirds), Everett (Silvertips), Tri-Cities (Americans), and Spokane (Chiefs). The league primarily includes teenagers from provinces in Western Canada, and the Western United States.
The Bill's sponsor, (R) Joe Fain, released a statement praising the move. "While a select few players go on and play professional hockey, for most this is an opportunity to earn a college scholarship," said Fain in the statement. "By addressing the status of these amateur athletes, they can continue to improve their game and put on a great display for local fans. Since moving to Kent in 2009 South King County fans have embraced our local team, which has added cultural and economic benefits."
The WHL, which had threatened to pull out of Washington State if there was no change, also cheered the signature.