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The "major" in major junior hockey could just as well stand for the sacrifices demanded of a young player who aspires to a long National Hockey League career. Somehow, to the Canadian Hockey League Players' Association, that means the players "forfeit their youth."
Whether the CHLPA — the union which no player has owned up to being part of since Day 1 and whose executive director, Georges Laraque, is seems to being going by rote — gets what it wants remains to be seen. It has kept on giving as a comedy gift, though. On Sunday, the organization, so-called, posted a statement on Facebook which, amidst identifying Canadian Hockey League president David Branch as "CHL Commissioner" and Canadian Interuniversity Sport as "the CIAU" even though the governing body of university sport adopted the CIS handle more than a decade ago, managed to get even more scattershot.
From Facebook ("forfeit" is highlighted for other reasons):
The argument is laughable even without the misspelling. No CHL player is playing competitive hockey against his will, period, full stop.
Branch is sufficiently sagacious to nip the challenge in the bud. As Gregg Drinnan pointed out, this challenge was likely inevitable since the CHL ranges into so many areas that used to be the province of big-time pro sports, such as drug testing.
Having an ombudsperson and a parents' council which can advocate for players' rights is certainly a worthy idea, provided each has strong enough autonomy to not seem like a rubber stamp. Nail Yakupov's suspension last season for passing on the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game also underscored that the CHL might have outgrown the day when its president could be judge and jury.
It's called transparency; it's just ironic this is being pointed out by a group which has no clothes, so to speak.
Education packages could also be more flexible and open-ended, especially as the 'virtual classroom' replaces traditional post-secondary education. Granted, as Edmonton radio host Guy Flaming pointed out last Saturday, any player who wants to use his education package should simply go to the 34-team CIS instead of signing in the ECHL. (It's also worth noting that one former WHLer who didn't use his education package, Lane Manson, said he invested his hockey earnings and used it to pay for his schooling at the University of Saskatchewan, which sounds better than taking out student loans that you'll be paying off well into your late 30s, which is the only option for many non-athletes.)
Getting back to the point, this CHLPA story will be a farce — "a charity that no one asked to be created," to quote the columnist Cathal Kelly — until its proves its credentials. It cannot expect a pass on basics such as who hired Laraque. That is fair, no? Just like it's fair not to zing Laraque for stating in an interview with Allan Bristowe of PGTV in Prince George, B.C., that WHL teams make more than $250 million annually. (Let's assume Laraque misspoke, which can happen in a live interview; some 'envelope math' suggests $250 million could be in the ballpark to the annual gross revenue for the entire CHL, give or take tens of millions.) There's a difference between a possible misstatement and ridiculous, poorly thought out rhetoric.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.