By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
The union that is working to organize the Canadian Hockey League’s 60 teams hasn’t yet made its way into the Kamloops Blazers’ dressing room.
Players with the WHL team said on the weekend that they are aware that the Canadian Hockey League Players’ Association exists in some form but admit to not knowing a whole lot about it.
Furthermore, it doesn’t seem they much care.
“In our dressing room, there isn’t a lot of talk about it, to be honest with you,” centre Dylan Willick, 20, one of the Blazers’ three alternate captains, said. “At this point, it’s basically all outside . . . it’s all them doing this thing.”
Centre Colin Smith, 19, another alternate captain, added: “Around the league, everybody is treated very well so I’m not too sure what their incentives are. I don’t know a whole lot about it. But I’m sure it will sort itself out.”
Defenceman Tyler Hansen, 19, the Blazers’ third alternate captain, hasn’t been approached by the CHLPA and said he isn’t at all interested.
“I don’t believe in the CHLPA,” Hansen said. “Our owners treat us really well. They’re obviously our biggest fans and we know they’d do anything for us.
“We feel as a team that we’re taken care of and we love our owners. We like the way things are going here in Kamloops.”
The existence of the CHLPA came to light a few weeks ago. However, it got off to a rather shaky start when, in announcing that former NHLer Georges Laraque was its executive director, it misspelled his name. Shortly after that, someone with the CHLPA took to Twitter with a number of error-filled tweets involving the purported ticket-generated revenue of each of the CHL’s 60 teams.
Since then, the CHLPA, which has mostly been fronted by a spokesperson named Derek Clarke, has slowly begun to emerge from the shadows.
Late last week, the CHLPA informed each of the OHL’s 20 teams that it will be suing them because, among other things, players aren’t paid a minimum wage. Earlier, the CHLPA, which hasn’t been certified as a bargaining unit, registered as a union in Alberta and filed an unfair labour practice charge against the Calgary Hitmen, alleging that management broke up an organizing meeting.
The CHLPA also asked the Alberta Labour Relations Board to waive a 60-day waiting period prior to a certification vote, claiming it feared reprisals against players should team management discover who was involved. The ALRB turned down that request last week.
WHL teams have been referring questions to the league office in Calgary. The response from the CHL and its three members leagues has been pretty much standard.
As WHL commissioner Ron Robison told The Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle last week: “To suggest we’re not taking care of our players is entirely contradictory to what we do. We’re offended by those type of statements and remarks.”
Willick said he has had some contact with Clarke, but added that “our team has yet to be really approached by anybody.”
“I’ve done an interview before on it and after the interview they approached me via Twitter and we had some emails back and forth,” Willick, 20, stated.
Willick said a meeting was set up but that it never took place after organizers realized that Willick would be attending by himself and not with teammates.
“Everyone who is here is happy to be here,” Willick said. “We get treated so well in this dressing room. Our equipment is paid for. We get living expenses paid for. There is nothing that we need to worry about in our day-to-day lives. There are no distractions. Nobody raises anything about it.”
Someone from the CHLPA also tried to contact right-winger Jordan DePape, 20, via Facebook but he didn’t respond.
“It’s just something I’m not interested in,” he explained. “I’m a 20-year-old and won’t even be here next season.”
Besides, DePape, added, “We’re treated great. I don’t even really care to talk to them just because of how we’re treated here. There’s nothing I’d want to change.”
Smith wondered if CHLPA organizers are even on the “same wavelength” as the players.
“As far as we’re concerned, there is no concern about the union at all,” he said. “Our owners treat us tremendously well and care a lot about the team.
“The actual players . . . no one is on the same wavelength. They are coming out and saying stuff about the players but there is no need for it from the actual players.”
Smith said “all your best friends are in the league” and, with social media being what it is, players are in constant contact with each other. He said he hasn’t heard any rumblings of discontent.
“It might just be because of what’s going on in the NHL,” Smith reasoned. “Maybe some people look at it as an opportunity . . . they thought maybe there was room for something here. But the NHL is a totally different animal. In the NHL, you’re talking about careers. In junior hockey, it’s more of a platform.”
In the WHL, Smith said, it isn’t about the money.
“No,” he said. “We’re here because we love the game and we’re trying to make it to the NHL, just like every other kid. As far as the money is concerned, that’s not what it’s about.”
Willick said that the Blazers, who own the WHL’s best record, have one thing on their minds right now.
“We are focusing on our season,” he said. “We’re focusing on being a team, being united and playing in the league that we’re in.
“Everything that’s outside the dressing room at this point is outside the dressing room.”
If you have interest in what's happening with the CHLPA, you should read this piece right here by Chris Peters at The United States of Hockey and this one right here from Guy Flaming at The Pipeline Show.
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