Saturday, 3 November 2012

The CHLPA's Incredible Ineptitude

The business of hockey is an unmitigated disaster. The NHL and NHLPA are doing their very best to destroy the greatest hockey league in the world. This week’s cancellation of the Winter Classic, a true spectacle that was to be held in front of over 100,000 fans outside in Michigan Stadium, is a crushing blow to fans everywhere.

However, the debacle that is the 2012 NHL lockout is only surpassed in its ineptitude for labor relations by what’s happening to Major Junior Hockey.

The Canadian Hockey League (CHL) is the governing body of the three Canadian major junior leagues—the Ontario Hockey League, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and the Western Hockey League. Coming out of virtually nowhere, the Canadian Hockey League Players Association (CHLPA) organized and recently began beating the drum for better working conditions.

The CHLPA, under the apparent lead of George Laracque, claimed to be in discussion with the NCAA to see if they could get the CHL deemed to be defined as an amateur league—thereby allowing its members access to college hockey at a later date. So far, this all makes sense. A league seeks to maximize revenue for its owners while a union advocates on behalf of the players.

Unfortunately, standard operating procedures end there because:
  1. Seemingly from an episode out of Arrested Development, the CHLPA used a spokesman by the name of Derek Clarke. However, apparently several individuals were using that name in press briefings and the CHL has hired a private investigator to find “the real Derek Clarke.” 

  2. One of the men supporting the CHLPA was Randy Gumbley, an individual convicted of stealing more than $ 100,000 from families of former CHL players in 2009. 

  3. The law firm of Victory Square Law Office, which was representing the CHLPA in court, has withdrawn its services as counsel for the union. 

  4. The CHLPA claims George Laraque as its Executive Director yet it’s clear he was intended to be the public face of the union but not its real leader. 

  5. Despite existing NCAA rules regarding the CHL’s definition as a professional league, Laraque claimed that the NCAA provided him with documentation that there is a way in which CHL players may make their way to college hockey. 

  6. Unfortunately, according to the NCAA, the CHLPA misunderstood their rules and, as far as anyone can tell, the CHL has virtually zero chance of a reclassification, making college hockey an impossibility for its players. 

  7. When all of this information came to light, Laraque claimed he was resigning but would stay on until a suitable replacement was named.
Unfortunately, and not for the first time, the rights of the players have been slid under the rug behind union incompetency in the sport of hockey. Player Associations are critical features of professional sports. History has taught us that not all players’ associations—nor their leadership—are created equal. To borrow a hockey maxim, my advice to the CHLPA leadership next time: “finish your check."

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