I chatted with ECHL commissioner Brian McKenna this morning about Chad Starling’s saga, and whether it would result in a change to the league’s immigration policy. McKenna, who read the story, said the league already takes a hard-line approach to contracted players entering the country on a work visa, and it’s up to the teams to be in full compliance. (That’s the Reader’s Digest version at least, check out tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin for the full story.)
Justin Kemp acknowledged that the Reign weren’t in compliance when Starling presented his letter to the border guard in Sweetgrass, Montana on Sept. 29. But he also said that, as minor-league hockey teams with small to non-existent profit margins, “we need to find every way we can to operate economically and competitively.”
I’ve come to a handful of conclusions about this topic:
1. The ECHL still could be doing more to police this issue internally. There’s a gap — maybe significant, maybe marginal — between the stated policy and the actual practice.
2. That said, the league shouldn’t have to police the issue internally; the teams should simply comply with the border laws. That’s obvious. Getting a P-1 visa seems to be a clunky and expensive process, but the Central Hockey League — which is in a similar position to the ECHL — has taken extra measures to work within it.
3. It’s not fair that the New York Rangers, as an example, and the Ontario Reign should have to pay the same amount of money to employ a Canadian citizen. According to the most recent rankings on Forbes.com, the Rangers are worth $461 million. They can throw around $1,550 here and there; the Reign can’t.
4. This all makes for a good read in October or November but, in the grand scheme of things, the issue is more quirky than serious. When we spoke today, Kemp could think of at least one state law that he’d change before this one. And, as he correctly pointed out, Starling had his P-1 done in time to play in Game 1; Starling also could have signed with another team once he got released. Ninety-nine times out of 100, this probably isn’t a story. But this one time, for this one player, it was a big, unfortunate, messy deal. Starling’s tale even got picked up (with a photo!) by the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix.
Speaking of more quirky than serious, check out this awesome pumpkin-carving job by reader Kevin: