As the story of the Canadian Hockey League Players’ Association (CHLPA) began a few months ago, it became evident rather early on that the fledgling organization was lacking in credibility.
In what may have been its first message to the masses, someone from the CHLPA misspelled the name of its executive director. This was in a tweet announcing the name of that executive director.
It has been downhill from there for the CHLPA, an organization that, if nothing else, has shown that you don’t have to be credible in order to gain an obscene amount of publicity via social media.
Someone who said his name was Derek Clarke represented himself early on as the CHLPA’s primary spokesman. He was quick to comment but reluctant to appear anywhere in person.
On Wednesday, Dave Naylor, a former CBC Radio reporter now working for TSN, did some digging and uncovered two men named Derek Clarke. Eventually, the one who apparently was with the CHLPA agreed to meet Naylor at a Montreal hotel on Thursday. Naylor later reported that Clarke refused to appear on camera.
By now there were reports that Clarke actually might be Randy Gumbley, a convicted fraudster with a history of running hockey-related scams.
Former NHL enforcer Georges Laraque was introduced as the CHLPA’s executive director in that August tweet in which his name was misspelled.
That should have served as the canary in the CHLPA’s mine.
By the time the CHLPA imploded on Wednesday and Thursday, the situation had become laughable.
There was Sunaya Sapurji, Yahoo! Sports’ junior hockey columnist, tweeting this yesterday: “I wrote this line today: Laraque said Derek Clarke also exists & is actually a man named Derek Clarke with ‘a family and kids and stuff.’ ”
And then there was this, from Willy Palov, who has written about major junior hockey for a long time with the Halifax Chronicle-Herald: “Just spoke with a third highly credible source who says the CHL possesses strong evidence Derek Clarke is Randy Gumbley.”
By late in the business day yesterday, it had been discovered that Derek Clarke — at least a Derek Clarke — and a Glen Clarke were sharing a phone number and email address but neither was returning phone messages.
By now, Laraque, his shovel working hard and the hole getting deeper, was telling Sapurji that Randy Gumbley’s brother, who he said looks a lot like Randy, has been working with the CHLPA.
Through all of this, the CHLPA, via Clarke, had been requesting a meeting with David Branch, who doubles as the CHL president and commissioner of the OHL.
Branch kept asking: “Who are these guys?” But he never got an answer.
So the CHL, in true Hollywood fashion, hired a private eye. No word if it was Thomas Magnum or Jacques Clouseau.
“Our private investigator never did find out who Derek Clarke is,” Branch told Sapurji yesterday.
Earlier in the week, the CHLPA had made a big deal out of the fact it claimed to have signed up the majority of players from one QMJHL team. That turned out to be the expansion Sherbrooke Phoenix.
Late yesterday, Panov reported: “Another credible source said Laraque gathered the Sherbrooke Phoenix players at a hotel earlier this week and informed them the players from the other 17 teams in the Quebec league had already joined the union and asked them to do the same.
“Nineteen of the 23 players allegedly signed cards, but they were asked to keep it confidential. One player eventually broke his silence to Phoenix staff during a team bus ride later that day.”
Meanwhile, players throughout the WHL have been laughing at the stumbling and bumbling. On the weekend, four senior members of the Kamloops Blazers indicated there was no interest in their dressing room in the CHLPA. The story was the same with the Edmonton Oil Kings, Kelowna Rockets, Saskatoon Blades and on and on.
In the hopes of being certified in Alberta, the CHLPA had applied to the Alberta Labour Relations Board on Oct. 5. Kristen Odland of the Calgary Herald reported yesterday that the law firm that had been representing the CHLPA, the Calgary-based Victory Square Law Office LLP, had withdrawn its services.
By late last night, the CHLPA also had lost its law firm in Quebec.
And then, at 7 p.m. Pacific time, came word that Laraque was resigning.
The CHLPA’s sweater, it seems, just continues to unravel.
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