Amid speculation and controversy, former NHL player Georges Laraque is stepping down as executive director of the CHL Players' Association.
Laraque posted a message on his Facebook page on Friday explaining why he has decided to leave the CHLPA.
"I got involved with the CHLPA with the fundamental objective of helping young hockey players realize their hockey career while furthering their education," Laraque said.
"That objective still holds true today. During my two months with the association, I came to realize that the task at hand (the collective force or union) was one that required people with expertise and experience on building projects of such scope. Yesterday, I decided to "pass the torch" to such experts because they will be better equipped to further the cause; I strongly believe this is the best way for me to help the CHLPA."
On Wednesday, news reports surfaced that an mysterious spokesman for the CHLPA by the name of Derek Clarke might actually be Randy Gumbley, a man who has admitted to taking $100,000 from hockey parents for their children to play in an elite Canadian junior league that did not exist.
Those reports were later denied by the CHLPA in a statement released on Thursday.
In his statement, Laraque commented on the situation and blame the Canadian Hockey League for the damaging media reports.
"The CHLPA has, and continues to deny that Randy Gumbley has any involvement with the CHLPA or that Derek Clarke is Randy Gumbley. These allegations were entirely frivolous," he said.
"The allegations were also strategically reported at the eve of a Certification vote. It illustrates the CHL's willingness to take any measure to bust the CHLPA's organizing drive and undermine the union to the players. The CHL has enjoyed a superior bargaining position over its players rather than fairly negotiate and deal with the CHLPA that puts a burden on their power."
Late last week, the CHLPA accused teams of taking advantage of their players and threatened to sue the league because of various employment violations.
The CHL was quick to respond.
“The CHL vehemently disagrees with the recent allegations made by Georges Laraque on behalf of the Canadian Hockey League Players’ Association [CHLPA],” the league said in a release. “Mr. Laraque knows better than anyone, the investment that we make in each of our players and our commitment to ensuring that the player’s amateur hockey experience is maximized."
In his statement Friday, Laraque reiterated his stance about the importance of a players' association.
"The primary objective of the CHLPA was to create better education packages for the players and lessen their restrictions following their tenure in CHL, for instance by being eligible to play in the NCAA. The goal was to act as a collective voice, through unionization, and without the threat of penalty or reprisal."
"I want to thank everyone at CHLPA, and especially the lawyers who did great work trying to set things up; like myself, they spent a great deal of time (for free) on this worthy cause and for the right reasons. These young people deserve our care and attention; they are our next generation."
Earlier Friday, the CHLPA's latest attempt to unionize junior hockey players suffered another setback when a would-be union withdrew its certification application in Nova Scotia.
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- Georges Laraque