How Brad Treliving Left His Mark on the Minor Hockey Landscape as a PHPA Player Representative
Date: Feb 7, 2017
(The following article is based on an interview with Brad Treliving, conducted by the PHPA in August 2007)
On April 28th, 2014 Brad Treliving was announced as the new General Manager of the Calgary Flames. It was a fitting promotion for Treliving having served as Assistant General Manager for the Phoenix Coyotes for the previous seven seasons. Prior to that, he had been the President of the Central Hockey League after serving as President and Director of Hockey Operations for the Western Professional Hockey League, a league which he founded in 1996.
However, it was during his five-year professional playing career, predominantly spent in the ECHL (formerly the East Coast Hockey League) when Treliving would first delve into the management side of the sport, while simultaneously cementing his legacy on the minor hockey landscape.
It was in the early 1990’s when Larry Landon, Executive Director of the Professional Hockey Players’ Association, started receiving a number of alarming phone calls from ECHL players who were concerned with a host of issues they felt the League was ignoring. “I recall the horror stories, which at the time were hard to believe,” recounts Landon. “As we continued to receive calls it was apparent these players needed help in the form of a collective voice, which they didn’t have at the time.”
Enter a group of ECHL players, led by Brad Treliving, who approached Landon about the PHPA becoming the certified collective bargaining representative for ECHL players. At the time, the PHPA represented players in the American Hockey League (AHL) and International Hockey League (IHL).
Requiring approval from AHL and IHL Player Representatives to initiate the certification process, Landon invited Treliving to the PHPA Annual Meeting of Player Representatives, where after hearing his plea, AHL and IHL players unanimously approved the effort to begin unionizing ECHL players.
As Landon began negotiating the initial Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with then ECHL Commissioner Rick Adams, he asked the group of players who had initially approached him about representing ECHL players, including Brad Treliving, to be involved in the negotiation process and serve on the Bargaining Committee.
“I thought it was good timing for me personally, knowing that I was likely going to retire at the end of the season, and I wanted to test my hand in management,” recounts Treliving.
The input and involvement from that group of ECHL players helped standardize housing, per diem, and included the basic essentials to improve the players’ professional hockey experience.
“Players in the ECHL at the time were excited knowing that the League was unionizing,” said Treliving. “It was comforting to know that as a player, the PHPA was advancing and protecting our rights. We now had an ear that would listen to us, and that issues which arose in the past weren’t going to come up again.”
The move was not met without significant resistance though from ECHL Owners and management. Although Landon had received an overwhelming amount of interest and support from players, the Owners wanted no part of the union.
“I am extremely proud of those ECHL players, who at the time, were threatened to have certain team benefits taken away from them if they voted to unionize,” noted PHPA General Counsel, Ron Jaros who played a significant role in the certification process. “Larry and I witnessed first-hand what these players had to go through, as a number of ECHL markets were not sympathetic to unions.”
The PHPA’s persistence to create a better way of life for ECHL players and their families finally paid off after the National Labor Relations Board conducted a formal, secret ballot vote among players in each ECHL city. The end result was an overwhelming response from ECHL players in favor of PHPA representation, with the first PHPA-ECHL CBA finalized in October, 1995.
“Not many players would have the fortitude, the wherewithal, and willingness to sacrifice their career back then like Brad Treliving did,” said Landon. “They risked a lot, but over 20 years after negotiating that inaugural CBA with the ECHL, the League and PHPA have built a solid working relationship and have enjoyed stable labor relations having signed our sixth CBA in 2013. The League has proven to be the primary development system for the American Hockey League, with over 600 former players having gone on to play in the NHL.”