If you've followed the game of hockey for the last decade it's likely you have heard the name Georges Laraque. Laraque, a former tough guy who spent time with the Edmonton Oilers, Phoenix Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins and Montreal Canadiens. He announced his retirement in 2010 after suffering from 2 herniated disks in his back. In 695 career NHL games Laraque racked up 1126 penalty minutes. Since his retirement he has tried his hand at various things including politics, but his latest venture see's him heading up the CHLPA to fight against the CHL. Laraque's goal is to unite all Canadian junior hockey players and help them fight for whats fair.
Now that in itself is perfectly fine, what is raising eyebrows is the man behind the CHLPA or rather the spokesperson, Derek Clarke. Clarke's job is to contact players and get them on the same side and eventually get them fighting with the CHLPA. But the Derek Clarke that Laraque believes he is working with may not be Richard Clarke at all. Players in the CHL got suspicious when they started to receive late night phone calls from blocked numbers and "union representatives" that refused to identify themselves. Now I haven't been in the business world before, but it's usually good to know who you're working for or with before venturing into something as big as this.
TSN is one of the largest sports networks north of the boarder and cover just about all major hockey stories and like any other story, they assigned a reporter to follow the progress being made by the CHL and CHLPA. That reporter is Dave Naylor. Naylor reports that he has spoken with 2 different men by the name of Richard Clarke. The first two calls he made to the man were answered by the same man, but the third call was someone new;
"The Derek Clarke we talked to on Halloween is different than the one we spoke to the first two times,” ~ Dave Naylor
So who is this mystery Derek Clarke?
Laraque and company swear the Derek Clarke they are working with is the real Clarke and not the suspected Randy Gumbley a former hockey coach busted for fraud. What makes the story even more unusual is Laraque was presented with a picture and asked if the man in the picture was Clarke, he told the reporters that the man was indeed Clarke. But the man in the picture was indeed Randy Gumbley.
Due to the uncertainty regarding who is behind the CHLPA the CHL hired a private investigator to find out who is behind the union, and one of the men being traced is Gumbley. The real Derek Clarke was supposed to meet with Naylor Thursday afternoon and record an interview on camera to help prove the he is indeed who he says. But when Clarke arrived at the meeting he refused to be recorded on camera and would only speak with Naylor off camera.
If Richard Clarke does turn out to be Gumbley it's bad news for the CHLPA and any chance they have at negotiating with the CHL. Gumbley is a retired hockey coach who has twice been convicted of fraud from dealing with young hockey players. One offence included flying kids over to Europe for $3500 to play in a hockey tournament that didn't exist. One of the reasons Randy Gumbley has been suspected of being involved, is because his brother, Glenn Gumbley, is one of the key supporters in the CHLPA.
If things weren't bad enough for the proposed CHLPA union, things got even worse on Thursday evening when Georges Laraque said he plans on stepping down as the head of the CHLPA. His resignation comes after a crazy 24 hours which saw Laraque's car tires fly off on the highway and the identity of the man behind the group come under question. Did Laraque get caught in a hoax? He invested a awful lot of himself and his money in this group to suddenly step down.
The sad thing for the CHLPA is that they just became a union and have already been corrupted. Considering the state the NHL is in, this is the last thing the game of hockey needs. Players forming unions that wont work together to fight the league, what happened to the days when they just played for the love of the game instead of the money? The game of hockey is quickly going down the drain, one bad story at a time.