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Explaining ECHL/CHL lawsuit

Many of you had interest in a post I had Aug. 21, regarding an appellant brief that was filed Jan. 9 in which it is alleged that the ECHL tried to “poach” the Rapid City Rush and Allen Americans from the CHL.

Click here to read more.

With the help of Leif Skodnick (more on him later), I sifted through all the filings made in the case, which is slated to go to trial in October.

The original petition, which was filed May 29, 2013, was filed by the CHL against the ECHL, the corporate forms of the Rapid City and Allen teams, the owners of those two teams, plus player’s association executive director Larry Landon, ECHL commissioner Brian McKenna and Paul Hendrick, who was general counsel for the ECHL.

Basically, the CHL (under the name Western Professional Hockey League) alleged that the ECHL and the other defendants tortiously (wrongly) interfered with the contractual relations between the WPHL/CHL and the Allen and Rapid City memberships, and that the defendants conspired to defame the CHL.

Landon was later dismissed from the suit with prejudice, meaning the CHL cannot refile against him.

McKenna and Hendrick made special appearances to challenge the Dallas County court's personal jurisdiction over them and won.

The briefs I previously posted here were from the CHL’s interlocutory appeal (meaning immediate and before the trial) of the court's dismissal of Hendrick and McKenna for lack of personal jurisdiction. The appeal has since been dropped and the suit will move to trial in October.

So why is this filed in Texas, you may ask?

According to a brief filed by the CHL: “The relevant facts demand that Texas law applies to WPHL’s tort claims. WPHL’s injury occurred in Texas, as WPHL is currently organized and headquartered in Texas. Further, one of the chief participants involved in the defendant’s conspiracies (the Allen Americans) is a team based in Texas, and the effects of defendants’ tortious conduct with respect to the Allen Americans will have significant ramifications in Texas.”

However, as Skodnick noted, “by filing in Texas and including Allen as a defendant, there was no way that the case could be removed by the defendants to a federal court. They probably could just have easily have filed it in New Jersey, where the ECHL is headquartered, but the defendants would have been able to get out of state court and into Federal Court because the case would have been between parties from different states.”

As for Skodnick, he is a business reporter at the Westchester County Business Journal and holds a J.D. cum laude from Mississippi College. He also has a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University.

As a matter of disclosure, he previously worked for the ECHL as a communications intern and was a broadcaster with Mississippi and Johnstown, but has had no ties to the league since 2009.

Justin A. Cohn, pro sports coordinator for The Journal Gazette, has been covering the Fort Wayne Komets since 1997. His reporting includes game stories from home and away, features about the players and personalities associated with the Komets, plus coverage of issues affecting hockey at all levels. A native of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Cohn graduated from Emory University in Atlanta. He can be reached at 260-461-8429 or by email at jcohn@jg.net.

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