With the entire junior hockey-liking world presumably listening in, Georges Laraque was a no-show for his first media appearance as executive director of the nascent Canadian Hockey League Players' Association.
The story keeps getting, well, better. The CHLPA is definitely a thing and has sparked some discussion about the compensation major junior hockey players receive, but it's not kneejerk union-bashing to wonder about its credibility. Laraque, the former NHL tough guy and promoter of self, was scheduled to appear on Sportsnet Radio's Prime Time Sports on Tuesday night and failed to appear. This came after the CHLPA announced "George" Laraque had been appointed as its executive director.
For the time being, the focus probably should be on whether the organization will get off the ground, rather than wonder about what dire consequences a union could have on the bottom line of the Canadian Hockey League. Three days is a little early to demand to see the colour of someone's money, to use a phrase peculiar to labour negotiations, but it's more than fair to say a few junior devotees are in a show-me state about the CHLPA's credibility. Stating the Brandon Wheat Kings bus across Western Canada just to play one game probably does not help.
The same goes for claiming a 16-year-old player can be traded "sometimes during exams"; the Ontario Hockey League only allows a rookie to be traded from Jan. 1-10. The Quebec League also has trade freezes.
When the Brandon Wheat Kings has 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 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. That's right. Our most highly respected Canadians earn $1.06 an hour.
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? For a $1.06 an hour. (Facebook)
Major junior hockey is far from perfect. The flexibility of players' education packages should be examined, for starters; forcing a player to access it within 18 months makes it a double-edged gift. It would also be wonderful if 18- or 19-year-old players who feel like they're spinning their wheels in the CHL were eligible to play in the NCAA, although that would require changes from more than one league.
People can appreciate that junior players are entitled to some sort of advocacy group, especially if it turns out that non-salaried athletes cannot unionize . It's cognitive dissonance to say a milieu of athletes who have agents cannot have a union, too. A CHLPA is a good idea, but change does not come about just through ideas. A public relations campaign shouldn't be this hard for a group that aspires to convince hockey parents they'll they're look out for the children's lives after the CHL.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.
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