Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Teenage Labor Pains

(CHL Images)
If the thought of the NHL/NHLPA labor issues were not enough to drive a hockey fan insane; now comes word out of Canada that a group is trying to organize itself as a union representing the teenagers who play in the 3 junior leagues that make up the Canadian Hockey League.

Calling itself the Canadian Hockey League Players Association (CHLPA), this "group" would "represent" the approximately 1300 junior players of the CHL. Why they have even named former NHL player George Laraque as the executive director of this "union."

Forgive me if I don't take this group seriously because some of the claims that have already been made are making the NHL/NHLPA labor talks look really dull and boring.

“I can tell you we have representatives from all 60 teams, we have a board of directors from the players,” Derek Clarke, who identified himself as a spokesperson for the fledgling organization, said during a telephone interview on Monday night.

To steal a quote from one of my mentors Gregg Drinnan:

Sorry . . . but there aren’t any secrets in the hockey world, which often turns out to me smaller than most neighbourhoods. On top of that, I’m from Missouri. Someone is going to have to show me something, especially when it comes to asking for a $1.50 surcharge on every ticket sold (yes, and pigs can fly) and getting 60 per cent of Canadian Hockey League players to sign on the dotted line (have you ever tried herding cats?).

Drinnan would know as he has been writing about junior hockey since the grandparents of today's current junior players were playing in the CHL themselves.

And it is really hard to take this group (no matter how noble their intentions are) serious when they hire Laraque as the head of this "union." In his first act as the leader of the CHLPA, Laraque "no-showed" a scheduled media appearance to talk about this union and it's grand plans.

It would not be the first time that Laraque was out there promoting something that made Laraque look good. This won't be one of them as when someone stops to look at the rules concern unions, associations, guilds or whatever the CHLPA plans on labeling themselves that it would do more harm than good.

I will give this group some credit because the very first issue they want to address is the education package given to those who play in the CHL. Now there is no question that this is an issue that anybody who covers the Canadian Juniors would deny is in need of fixing.

The biggest problem is credibility as these folks want people to believe that they have been organizing in secret gaining the support of the players all across Canada and the United States for the last 14 months. Sorry I have been doing this beat for now 9 years and there is no way they could keep something like this a secret.

For starters we are talking about teenage boys ages 15-20 and in a 15 minute conversation I can have with one of my "spies"; I can learn who a prospect is dating, what he had for lunch, who broke curfew and which star player was in trouble with his coaches.

My version of the CIA is a mix of arena employees, team officials and family members. They know more about what is going on sometimes more than the players do themselves.

Yet until last week nobody heard a word about the CHLPA and what their intentions were. And frankly we still don't because the group is remaining very vague about who is involved here.

This isn't places like New York or Los Angeles where one could do a good job hiding secrets. We are talking small towns in Canada where if you sneeze, your neighbor yells out "Gesundheit."

Want to make sure that the CHL, Hockey Canada, USA Hockey and the NCAA can never find a common ground to allow CHL players to play for a US college? Form this association because the NCAA would never open their doors to CHL players who are being "represented" by a union.

That under NCAA rules is just as bad as any player receiving a stipend (CHL players get about $50 a week) and would just make matters worse. Tomorrow is when some of the training camps in the WHL will open and rather than working on hockey; teams whether they be coaches, players or media reps are going to be wasting time having to deal with this nonsense.

Well I have given this matter really more attention than I really should have because now should be about talking the prospects not a dumb idea like a union for teenagers.

And that is exactly the plan.

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