Players union can't be taken seriously
When considering the somewhat odd tale of the purported CHL players union, I am reminded of one Tony Riviera, the slick ‘entrepreneur’ whose attempts at forming the Canadian Baseball League took on some peculiar twists and turns.
Riviera, back in 2002, revealed a grand scheme regarding the placement of pro clubs in eight Western Canada cities, including Red Deer. It was a noble concept in itself, with the goal of developing Canadian players on Canadian soil.
Unfortunately, Riviera was working with a blurred blueprint. His approach was all wrong and his claims were outlandish.
He blew into Red Deer and basically gave the city a take-it-or-leave it offer. He was adamant that council make a quick decision on the use of Great Chief Park for the Red Deer Outlaws, and when he was told that the city would first have to consult with the population living in the vicinity of Great Chief before granting such permission, Riviera balked and announced that the league would construct a 2,500-seat stadium at Springbrook.
Admittedly, there was big money behind the whole process in the person of Chartlon Lui of Microsoft and former Yahoo! president Jeff Mallett, but Riviera’s claim that a stadium would be erected — complete with a finished infield — between January and mid-May was downright ridiculous.
Riviera originally pronounced that the calibre of play in the CBL would be similar to that of the Japanese League, or AAA. He later cut the comparison back to AA, and then the CBL conducted a draft of players that included a cop, an oilfield worker and an apprentice welder.
So yes, there were skeptics in every one of the proposed league centres. Of course, the Red Deer project was abandoned and the eight-team league did not last through its maiden 2003 season.
The point of comparing the likes of Riviera and his CBL cohorts to those behind the attempted formation of a CHL players union is that none of them — apparently — can be taken seriously.
For starters, the man who has been the most vocal in trying to unionize Canada’s major junior hockey players goes by the name of Derek Clarke, but the CHL has been unable to discover anything about the man despite hiring a private investigator due to a number of late-night calls to players by so-called union representatives who have not left names or numbers.
And now there’s the suggestion that Clarke may actually be Randy Gumbley, a former hockey coach twice convicted of fraud. Former NHL tough guy Georges Laraque, the CHL Players Association president, twice identified a photo of Gumbley as Clarke, then — when informed of Gumbley’s past — insisted he has never seen Gumbley in his life.
The union ‘organizers’ claim they are hoping to get a better education package for the players and then turn around and threaten to sue the CHL for unfair labour practices. In short, they want the CHL to be shelling out minimum-wage salaries to the players.
The ‘organizers’ insist that the vast majority of the players in the CHL are aware of the union plans, and yet virtually all of the players who have been interviewed in recent weeks say they have not been approached by anyone representing a union.
While there has been some support for an education package that would not limit the timeline for claiming benefits to 18 months following graduation from the major junior ranks, the players, it appears, are not interested in being unionized. The general feeling is that the players, while not generously compensated in a financial manner, are more than satisfied with the current set-up.
The players’ living expenses are covered by the teams, which also pay for expenses on the road and equipment and provide the players with the opportunity to compete and develop at a high level. So if teams are forced to pay salaries, even at a minimum-wage level, then the players could be charged with providing their own keep as well as any other expenses.
Clearly, none of this makes a whole lot of sense. What we’re talking about here is a bunch of blocked numbers, faces without names and a ‘main’ man in charge who apparently has no traceable past. How can the CHL labour situation, in its entirety, be taken seriously?
On the move: The Edmonton Oil Kings have every intention of successfully defending their WHL championship, as proven by their Wednesday acquisition of defenceman David Musil from the Vancouver Giants. “It’s pretty exciting, a great opportunity to be with an organization like this,” the son of former Edmonton Oiler Frank Musil told the Edmonton Sun. “It’s a great opportunity for me to grow as a player. I’m really looking forward to it, it’s a great team here and hopefully I’ll be able to help.” The Oil Kings, who surrendered 17-year-old rearguard Mason Geertsen and a first-round pick in next year’s bantam draft, joins three other Edmonton Oilers draft picks currently with the Oil Kings — Mitch Moroz, Martin Gernat and Travis Ewanyk.
Just notes: Former Regina Pats defenceman and Oilers prospect Brandon Davidson has been diagnosed with testicular cancer. Davidson plays with Edmonton’s No. 1 farm team, the Oklahoma Barons of the AHL . . . Red Deer product Graeme Craig is still adjusting to life with a new team after being dealt from the Swift Current Broncs to the Saskatoon Blades two weeks ago. However, he should become better accustomed to his new teammates with the Blades playing eight of the next 11 games on the road. “Road trips are always good for finding out what guys are all about. I’ve been feeling my way around here and now know some of the guys,” Craig told the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. Blades assistant coach Curtis Leschyshyn likes what he’s seen of Craig so far. “He has some things you obviously can’t teach,” said Leschyshyn of Craig’s six-foot-five, 215-pound frame. “He plays physical and he’s really reliable. I think that’s something that we like about him. We can put him in a lot of situations . . . He’s been very good for us since he’s come to Saskatoon.”