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JOHNNY'S ICEHOUSE v. AMATEUR HOCKEY ASS'N ILLINOIS

March 7, 2001

JOHNNY'S ICEHOUSE, INC., ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
AMATEUR HOCKEY ASSOCIATION OF ILLINOIS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Shadur, Senior District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Johnny's Icehouse, Inc., Johnny's Chicago Chill Girls Hockey Club, 16 members of the Johnny's Chicago Chill Girls Hockey 15 and Under Team, their parents and their coach (collectively "Johnny's Icehouse") have asserted a number of claims against Amateur Hockey Association of Illinois, Inc. ("AHAI"), its directors (Richard Becker, Jay Cohen, Mike LeBarre, Kevin Mann and Bob Saliba), Central District Representative to USA Hockey Norman Spiegel and Advanced Arenas Inc. In brief the Complaint alleges that defendants discriminated on the basis of sex in the administration and promotion of amateur hockey in Illinois, engaged in monopolistic and anti-competitive behavior, breached their contracts with plaintiffs, engaged in self-dealing and conspired to commit those acts in violation of state and federal law.

AHAI and its cohorts (for convenience referred to here collectively as "AHAI," treated as a singular noun) have moved to dismiss Complaint Count I, which charges it with violating Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. § 1681-1683 ("Title IX"). According to AHAI it is not subject to Title IX because it is not a recipient of federal funds. Both sides' counsel have addressed that issue in their respective memoranda.*fn1 For the reasons set out in this memorandum opinion and order, AHAI's motion is granted in a limited sense.*fn2

Applicable Standard

Because AHAI labels its motion as brought under Fed.R.Civ.P. ("Rule") 12(b)(6), this Court accepts the Complaint's well-pleaded factual allegations as true, while also drawing all reasonable inferences in Johnny's Icehouse's favor (Sherwin Manor Nursing Ctr., Inc. v. McAuliffe, 37 F.3d 1216, 1219 (7th Cir. 1994)). Under Rule 12(b)(6) no claim will be dismissed unless "it is clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations" (Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73, 104 S.Ct. 2229, 81 L.Ed.2d 59 (1984), quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957)).

Facts*fn3

AHAI is an Illinois not-for-profit corporation qualified for federal tax exemption under 26 U.S.C. § 501(c)(3) ("Section 501(c)(3)") (¶ 9). AHAI was founded in 1975 as a sanctioned affiliate of USA Hockey, Inc. ("USA Hockey"), which has been appointed by Congress pursuant to the Amateur Sports Act as the national governing body for the sport of United States amateur hockey (¶ 37).

AHAI's mission is to promote and expand amateur hockey in Illinois. To further that mission AHAI sponsors tournaments, provides clinics for players and coaches, facilitates college scholarship assistance to deserving players and establishes a code of ethics applicable to all member teams (¶ 41). Virtually every organized amateur hockey team and virtually every high school hockey team in Illinois is a member of AHAI. Each member team is subject to AHAI's By-Laws and Rules and Regulations (¶ 42). There are no other amateur hockey associations in Illinois (¶ 74).

For high school teams AHAI has established a special committee to establish exclusively applicable rules and procedures, including rules for eligibility, competition and coaching certification (¶¶ 39, 42, 43). AHAI has the authority to impose discipline on any high school player, coach or team for any rule infraction (¶ 42). AHAI's High School Committee also organizes all high school related tournaments, including the state tournament (¶ 42).

Each hockey team and its players and coaches pay membership fees to AHAI (¶ 49). Members are also required to be registered with and to purchase insurance through USA Hockey (¶ 75). AHAI reserves the right to void any AHAI member's insurance if that member plays in a game or tournament that includes another team that is not registered with and has not purchased insurance through USA Hockey (¶ 76).

Johnny's Icehouse, Inc. is an Illinois corporation that operates a state-of-the-art hockey arena just west of downtown Chicago (¶ 17). Johnny's Chicago Chill Girls Hockey Club consists of two teams: a 19 and Under team and a 15 and Under team. Both teams play out of the Johnny's Icehouse arena. Johnny's Chicago Chill Girls Hockey Club is a member of AHAI, as are each of the 16 members on its 15 and Under team and its coach (¶¶ 18, 35).

AHAI has nearly 2,500 member teams (¶ 45). In 1999 approximately 16 of those were girls' 15 and under teams (id.). AHAI comprises two leagues: the boys' league (the Central States Developmental Hockey League) and the girls' league (the Central States Girls Hockey League) (¶ 46).

AHAI divides the boys' league into three tiers of competitiveness. Tier I (also referred to as the AAA tier) is the most competitive, Tier II is a less competitive level that includes travel teams and Tier III is the developmental or recreational level composed of house leagues (¶ 47).

AHAI organizes girls' hockey differently. It has authorized two teams — Team Illinois and the Chicago Young Americans — to play at the most competitive level of the Central States Girls Hockey League (¶ 48). Girls who do not make one of those two teams may play for one of the few all-girls house league teams or may try out for a boys' team (id.). Team Illinois and the Chicago Young Americans used to be designated as AAA teams, but AHAI purportedly eliminated the AAA/Tier I designation for Illinois girls' hockey teams in July 2000 (id.). Earlier in 2000 Johnny's Chicago Chill 15 and Under team had petitioned AHAI to play in the Central States Girls Hockey League at the AAA level. Although the team has performed successfully against other AAA teams, AHAI voted not to admit Johnny's Chicago Chill 15 and Under team as a AAA team (¶¶ 62, 64).

For Illinois boy skaters, AHAI has expanded house leagues and sponsored youth tournaments, Learn-to-Skate programs and college nights and has in other ways promoted recreational and competitive hockey, but it has done comparatively little to promote and expand hockey opportunities for girls (¶¶ 54, 55, 57). As a result the number of girls' hockey teams sponsored, promoted or encouraged by AHAI is less than 1% of the number of boys' teams (¶ 57). In addition, by contrast with AHAI's formal adoption of By-Laws regulating boys' hockey, it has issued only Rules and Regulations for girls' hockey, a procedure that allowed AHAI to ...


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