CHLPA saga truly unique to junior hockey | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in CanadaCHLPA saga truly unique to junior hockey

Posted: Friday, November 2, 2012 | 02:39 AM

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Former NHL enforcer George Laraque is poised to step down as executive director of the troubled CHL Players' Association.  (Ethan Miller/Getty Images) Former NHL enforcer George Laraque is poised to step down as executive director of the troubled CHL Players' Association. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

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Once the CHL Players' Association began to unravel over the past 48 hours, it crumpled in such a bizarre manner that now even the union's front man Georges Laraque is prepared to step down.

If you follow junior hockey, you know that no lead is safe, and the way the troubled Canadian Hockey League Players' Association collapsed like a house of cards this week was reminiscent of how a bunch of teenagers can swiftly fall apart on the ice.

I'm not saying this proposed union ever had a leg up or even appeared to be a sure thing. But once the CHLPA began to unravel over the past 48 hours, it crumpled in such a bizarre manner that now even the union's front man, Georges Laraque, is prepared to step down after he finds the right people to take over the CHLPA.

"The cause is good," Laraque told the Globe and Mail on Thursday night. "It's just that we're not experienced enough.

"We're not a strong enough team to do this. People have real jobs.

"It's a big project. It's better to give it to a real union, so they can do this.

"I believe in it. I think the right team could do this, especially after all that we've done.

"For those kids, we're not quitting. We're passing it on."

The Calgary Herald revealed that Victory Square Law Office LLP, the firm that was trying to get the CHLPA certified in Alberta, had withdrawn its services.

Laraque, who became the CHLPA's executive director, told QMI Agency that spokesperson Derek Clarke was packing it in, too. 

Who exactly Clarke is - or was - became the pin that popped the CHLPA's balloon this week. The CHL certainly became concerned about Clarke, too.

CHL president and OHL commissioner David Branch admitted to Yahoo! Canada that his league hired a private investigator to find out Clarke's background.

"We started to get concerned, based on the information coming to us," Branch said in his interview with Yahoo!. "So we did this for the safety and security of our players.

"We felt it was important to find out who Derek Clarke is and there were repeated requests to find out who he was and we never had any contact. Our private investigator never did find out who Derek Clarke is."

There were concerns that Clarke may have been hiding his true identity. There also were accusations that he really was former Streetsville Derbys owner Randy Gumbley, who was convicted of fraud in 2009.

Laraque was shown a picture of Gumbley by TVA Sports and asked if this was Derek Clarke. Laraque answered in the affirmative, but he later changed his story and said he was mistaken.

Instead, he said the picture was Glenn Gumbley, who works for the CHLPA and is Randy Gumbley's brother.

Laraque later accused the CHL of leaking this Derek-Clarke-really-was-Randy-Gumbley theory to discredit the union.

Nevertheless, to add another peculiar twist, Yahoo! Canada talked to an unnamed consultant with ties to the CHLPA. This person said he dealt with not only a Derek Clarke, but a Glen Clarke, and both used the same email account.

Laraque said there was no person named Glen Clarke who worked for the CHLPA.

Meanwhile, TSN's David Naylor reported that he had interviewed Clarke on the telephone three times and the voice he heard the third time was different than the first two occasions. Naylor also talked to the cloak-and-dagger Clarke in Montreal on Thursday, but he refused to be interviewed on camera.

'I never said it wasn't a good league'

Back to Laraque, he attempted to clarify why he got involved and why he believes the 1,400 hockey players on the 60 CHL teams need a union.

"I never said that the junior players were mistreated," he told the Globe and Mail. "I never said it wasn't a good league.

"The two things I said was that, one, the 18th months they have [to use their education plan] is unacceptable. It should be four years.

"They know that every player that plays junior hockey wants to play a couple years in the ECHL or the AHL to try and make it. It's unacceptable to have 18 months because you know they're not going to take that scholarship.

"The second thing is, the NCAA ... If they change the bylaw, then the players could go there. They won't lose their eligibility, but the [CHL is] blocking it."

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