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 entertainment package."
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 Switzerland 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.