U.S. Federal Court Judge Victoria Roberts granted a preliminary injunction in the case of the NHL Players’ Association and Merrimack senior Anthony Aquino against the Ontario Hockey League, allowing Aquino to play in the OHL as an overage 20-year-old this season.
Aquino had recently joined the lawsuit filed over a year ago by the NHL Players’ Association and requested an immediate decision in arguments made August 29. The injunction prevents the OHL from enforcing a rule that prohibits its teams from signing 20-year-olds who choose to leave a U.S. college to join an OHL team as an overage player.
As a result of the decision in his favor, Aquino can now sign with the OHL’s Oshawa Generals and become an NHL free agent at the end of the season.
However, the OHL has appealed the ruling. A decision on the appeal is expected soon.
Aquino was drafted in the third round in 2001 by the Dallas Stars but has said that he believes he would have a better chance to make it to the NHL with another team, partly because of Dallas’ penchant for signing free agents.
The judge’s decision has implications for all of college and pro hockey. The striking down of the OHL’s so-called “Van Ryn Rule” — instituted in 2000 to close a loophole that allowed overage college players to jump to the OHL and become NHL free agents — means the loophole is re-opened and that option is available once again to those players.
A New England Division I All-Star in 2002 and All Hockey East Second Team selection in 2001, Aquino recorded 56 goals and 59 assists for 115 points in 110 career games at Merrimack.
Aquino remains home in Mississauga, Ont. If he does not attend the first day of classes at Merrimack on Sept. 4, he will automatically forfeit his senior year of eligibility. But with the OHL’s appeal, his future remains up in the air.
“I don’t know if I’m going to play in the OHL or at Merrimack,” Aquino told the Eagle-Tribune. “I’m still waiting.”