The cover of the Senators' season-ticket sales brochure features
a player who has yet to see a minute of NHL ice time this
season. After demanding $5 million per year more than the $3.6
million his contract calls for, Ottawa's Alexei Yashin took off
for Switzerland, where he has been holding out since September.
Yashin's demand was too much for the Senators. It was also too
much for season-ticket holder Leonard Potechin. "When Yashin said
he could do anything he wanted despite a valid contract, we
decided something must be done," says Arthur Cogan, Potechin's
lawyer. On Oct. 4 Cogan filed the Canadian equivalent of a
class-action lawsuit, asserting that Yashin's refusal to play
interferes unlawfully with Senators season-ticket holders'
contract with the team.
Yashin's camp greeted the suit with scorn, but last week Ontario
Superior Court Judge Michel Charbonneau ruled that the case could
proceed. "In recent times," he explained in a 17-page decision,
"courts have attempted to give monetary damages for loss of
enjoyment or dissatisfaction with the product purchased when the
plaintiff had entered into a consumer contract for some form of
Will this suit lead to fans' being allowed to sue the home team
for any perceived fault? Not quite. It addresses only the
relationship between season-ticket purchasers and a player who
holds out, and it is still far from becoming precedent. For now,
though, Potechin and Cogan are enjoying their day in court. The
lawyer expects to take sworn testimony from Yashin soon. "I'll go
to Switzer-land and ask him questions he does not want to
answer," Cogan says. After that he hopes to put Yashin before a
jury in Canada's capital to explain why $3.6 million isn't enough
to keep him playing Canada's game.
January 17, 2000