With the 2018 Winter Olympics nearing, the eyes of the hockey world are starting to focus on host nation South Korea and its push to have a competitive hockey team ready for the Games.
Professional hockey player, Ryan Thang, a former third round pick of the NHL’s Nashville Predators and graduate of the University of Notre Dame, was to be part of that push, he claims, when he signed with South Korean professional team High1 Ice Hockey Team of Asia League Ice Hockey.
However, sometime during the off-season Mr. Thang says he was told he wouldn’t be needed despite having signed a contract for 2015-2016. He tried to resolve this situation quietly with High1 but without success.
So he has decided to go public over the contract dispute for which he has documentation, including emails and the contract itself which he published a photo of on Twitter to support his claim that he has a valid contract for the 2015-2016 season with High1.
hockeyinasia.com has sent multiple emails to High1 requesting their side of the dispute without receiving any replies.
You decided to make this a public issue, Why?
I’ve tried to settle this matter privately with High1 and Kangwon Land Inc. but a signed contract apparently doesn’t mean anything to them. This is simply a warning about how I was treated by High1 and Kangwon Land and I hope no other athlete is treated this same way in South Korea.
Can you provide evidence to support you claims that you have a valid contract?
Yea I have a signed contract, along with emails and text messages.
After you went public in August, hockeyinasia.com emailed High1 (Kangwon Land) many times for their side.
Has High1 contacted you?
High1 has ignored all forms of communication, and I think it’s because it’s pretty hard to deny a signed and binding contract between two parties.
When were you told you weren’t wanted back, what was the reason given?
It was hinted to me at the end of April/ early May that there was a new boss for High1 sports and that he didn’t want imports anymore. I was initially told not to worry though because I had a signed contract and I also had an extremely successful season statistically.
I have since been asked numerous times if I would “be a good guy” and just cancel my end of the contract.
Have you hired legal representation to resolve this situation?
My U.S lawyer has flown all the way to Seoul to meet with High1 on numerous occasions and nothing has been resolved.
I have now contacted several Korean lawyers that are eagerly awaiting my go ahead to file a legitimate lawsuit in Seoul.
In the meantime, can you play for another professional team?
The reason I took a chance on High1 and the Asian League was because I was told several times by High1 hockey staff that I was the top priority for the winter Olympics in 2018, I held out this summer because I was hoping that this would get resolved and give myself another chance at the Olympics.
When two parties sign a contract, it’s a lawful binding agreement and I’m not allowed to sign another contract until this one gets resolved.
Not only did I have tremendous personal success for High1 last year, I went out of my way to make sure I helped develop my Korean teammates everyday on the ice and also in the weight room. So I had a lot invested.
Why haven’t you just put this behind you? You’re 28 and still have years of hockey to play. Why not move on?
This is why I’m so upset. Yes I am still only 28, but I burnt a lot of bridges when I left Europe by turning down offers in order to pursue High1 and the Olympics. I again this year turned down multiple offers to go back to Europe to sign the extension with High1 and by the time I figured out that they no longer wanted me back, those European offers were no longer available and rosters were full.
Have you received offers from other teams since going public?
I have received a few offers but teams now know that I’m desperate to play and the compensation from those teams is not enough to support a growing family with a 6 month old. After you turn down an offer from a team to sign like I did with High1, that team obviously doesn’t want to extend that offer again so this whole situation with High1 has really negatively affected my career to the point where I’m not playing anymore.
Many similarities can be seen between your situation and that of baseball player Scott Richmond who is in legal proceedings against a Korean professional baseball team he had signed with a few seasons ago.
Have you attempted to contact Mr. Richmond?
I have not been in contact with Mr. Richmond but I did hear about his story and it sounds scarily similar. It is just mind boggling to me that a signed contract between prestigious teams and companies and their athletes in South Korea is allowed to play out like this, especially with the Winter Olympics around the corner. This whole situation is extremely sad and frustrating for the both of us and both stories could of easily been avoided and settled privately.
The worst part about this is I know Scott and I only wanted to play the sport we loved like true professionals because we honestly enjoyed the game and because we wanted to support our families.