A union that wants to represent Canadian Hockey League players ought to know how the league works, one would think.
The CHLPA's constitution and goals are now public thanks to some gumshoeing by In The O Radio. Yahoo! Sports' Sunaya Sapurji has also delineated that there are number of hoops to jump through just to become certified as union just in Ontario, to say nothing of the 12 other provinces and U.S. states where the CHL does business.
It is curious — executive director Georges Laraque has offered public comment and certainly sounds earnest — that the group's Facebook page only refers to players in Canada. (The CHL has eight U.S.-based teams). Having a goal of taking over the administration of players' benefits and education packages probably also furrowed some brows. Please keep in mind some unions, particularly ones that represent craftspeople and tradespeople, do oversee benefits and pensions for their membership. It's common with unions that have itinerant workers. Not all do.
It is also curious, as Sapurji highlighted that the CHLPA claims "99.9 per cent of active players from last season" knew about the union drive while players themselves are largely in the dark. The latter does not mean there is no movement to organize players.
It's a common tack when a workplace is organized to only speak to a limited number of workers. All the better to keep the management from getting out front of it. Then an organizing committee is struck, which identifies the leaders and prevents them from being illegally demoted or fired.
Far be it to suggest that CHLPA spokesman Derek Clarke should know this and thus wouldn't throw out a 99.9% claim to impress the media. Again, no one is saying major junior players shouldn't have an association which looks out for them, but that should make people wonder. So should distorting basic facts about the CHL is not a good starting point.
From the CHLPA's official Facebook page:
CHLPA claim: "Another way it is affected is from the 'Contamination Money' a player receives from his team, as low as $50 in many cases. This 'contamination money' paid to the player is one of the things which will automatically void his chances from ever receiving an NCAA scholarship."
Overlooked: Another reason the NCAA bars former CHL players is that they play with professionals, i.e., players under NHL contracts. The playing-with-professionals policy also affects soccer players. For instance, leagues such as the Premier Development League and W-League cannot directly pay someone to play. Point being, CHL players wouldn't suddenly be eligible to receive a NCAA scholarship if their weekly stipend was eliminated.
CHLPA claim: "A player in the CHL right now misses over 25% of his school year. When the Brandon Wheat Kings has [sic] a game in Portland or Victoria the players are sitting on the bus for over 30 hours to play a game just to get back on the bus and travel over 30 hours back home, missing an entire week of school in the process. Val D'or [sic] playing in Cape Breton will go through similar punishment and the most amazing thing about it is the player will do this for $1.06 per hour."
Overlooked: The Wheat Kings' schedule. Their only visit to Victoria this season is the fourth of a seven-game road swing to Western Canada. They don't even play in Portland or any other U.S. city this season. No one is spending 60 hours on a bus for a single game. Yet that is the way it's phrased.
It is a grind, which is why those road swings are often scheduled for early in the season and school year. But the CHL didn't create Canada's geography.
CHLPA claim: "Then there is the issue of mid season trades when the 16 and 17 year old player is uprooted from his school, sometimes during exams and traded to another city, and forced to change to another school, yet again. The players education is once again compromised and at what cost?"
Overlooked: Sixteen-year-old players, by and large, are not traded during the season. The only 16-year-olds who can be traded in the OHL are first-round picks. A first-rounder may only be dealt before Sept. 15 if he doesn't report to training camp or between Jan. 1 to 10. That second window is often much smaller because players cannot be traded while they are in international tournaments; most first-rounders are playing in the World Under-17 Challenge during the first few days of January.
When a 17-year-old player is traded, more often than not it's to a rebuilding team where there's more ice time available
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.