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Hockey Program Wins Round in Antitrust Suit

(CN) - A federal judge will let a for-profit hockey program proceed with antitrust claims against the governing body of an amateur hockey league in Minnesota.

Minnesota Made Hockey Inc. offers league play opportunities to youth who also play in local associations that make up District 6 of Minnesota Amateur Hockey Association, a division of governing body Minnesota Hockey Inc.

In July 2010, District 6 adopted an "outside league rule" barring players from playing in another league while playing for one of its teams.

According to the ruling, Minnesota Made and other private leagues were frequently mentioned in the association's meeting minutes, and evidence suggests "that the motive behind the rule was to prevent [Minnesota Made] from "'taking'" players.

Minnesota Made said about 40 players left its leagues, many citing the rule, which "discourages players from joining [its] leagues by making them ineligible for District 6's leagues."

In its lawsuit, Minnesota Made accused the defendants, which also include one of the league's district associations and a district director, with state and federal antitrust violations, as well as for interference with contracts and business.

The association and its co-defendants meanwhile moved to dismiss the case, arguing that they had an exemption from antitrust laws based on their non-profit status, and that Minnesota Made had no antitrust standing.

Judge John R. Tunheim disagreed, claiming Minnesota Made "presented sufficient facts to support its claims that defendants engaged in anticompetitive behavior." The court similarly upheld claims for interference with contracts and business, but dismissed conspiracy claims and dismissed the local associations for failure to plead sufficient supporting facts.

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