Buzzing The Net - Junior Hockey

CHLPA tweets bid for control over Stanley Cup in lockout yearJust when you thought it was safe to go back into the water, the CHLPA resurfaced.

Last Friday, Georges Laraque resigned from fronting the major junior hockey player association after some bizarre identity allegations came to light surrounding one of the CHLPA's bosses, Derek Clarke.

But despite losing momentum, the CHLPA continues to fight, now arguing that if the National Hockey League doesn't get their season together, that Canadian Hockey League teams could compete for the Stanley Cup.

Wait… what?

Well, first a brief history into Canada's constitutional crisis over the Stanley Cup. In 2005, a bunch of beer-leaguers called the 'Wednesday Nighters' made the claim that if the NHL wasn't the top hockey league, it should lose the right to have its teams compete for the Cup.

"We do not take this lightly," said Gard Shelley, an amateur hockey player in his mid-50s. "The Stanley Cup is the greatest sports trophy anywhere, ever. It is unique and a huge part of our culture and heritage."

"This did start off as an amusing idea after Wednesday night hockey one night," amateur David Burt said. "I'm frustrated as most hockey fans are that the NHL and the NHLPA lost the season. I don't know which side of that issue I'm on. I'm just frustrated with the fact that there is no hockey being played. I don't think that's what Lord Stanley intended. I think he had a higher purpose for his donation." [ESPN]

A further study done by Jeremy de Beer into the history of the Stanley Cup shows that the NHL's control over the Cup is conditional:

Recall that paragraph 5 of the 1947 agreement with the NHL stipulated that the agreement would be in force only "so long as the league continues to be the world's leading professional hockey league as determined by its playing calibre and in the event of dissolution or other termination of the NHL, the Stanley Cup shall revert to the custody of the trustees."

The Wednesday Nighters would have argued that dissolution or other termination could include cancellation of the season. Under the terms of Lord Stanley's original trust, could the Stanley Cup go to senior amateurs, junior champions or a women's team? History suggests perhaps it could. The Cup was awarded to amateur or professional teams for decades before the NHL was even formed. [jeremydebeer.ca]

Unfortunately, the Stanley Cup trustees "have the opportunity—but not the obligation—to award the Stanley Cup to a non-NHL team". The trustees decreed to the National Post back in September that theirs was still an NHL award. No matter how hard the CHLPA campaigns, I highly doubt that this is just an attempt by the organization to bring itself back into the spotlight by spitting into the wind.

The CHLPA doesn't have an official press release with a letter to the Cup trustees listed on their website, instead linking to the Stanley Cup's wikipedia page from a tweet. In the event that the Hockey Hall of Fame doesn't have blank 'Play for the Stanley Cup' applications at their front door, I think the PA would need to get into some specifics.

While the cause is noble, I think that it's also a little absurd. Junior hockey players play for their own grail, the Memorial Cup, which isn't as iconic as Stanley but comes at the culmination of a season wherein the league champions play against each other. The CHLPA's suggestion that the top 2 point leading teams, regular season and playoffs, play for the Stanley Cup at the conclusion of the Memorial Cup is an underdeveloped idea.

How underdeveloped is this idea? Well, last year, the top two CHL point-getters would have been the Edmonton Oil Kings and the Portland Winterhawks. The WHL still plays four more games than the OHL or QMJHL, giving them a natural advantage. In the end, the CHLPA's failure to communicate its ideas led to its inevitable downfall, and I don't see this "application" getting accepted, even if the Stanley Cup trustees would want to award the Cup to a team outside the NHL.

It's a fun idea, made more fun by the Dramatis Personae involved, but there are handfuls of senior and professional teams across Canada and North America that could clean the clock of the best major junior team, simply because they have more developed bodies and experience playing the game. If the Cup trustees go back on their word and award the Cup outside of the Canadian major junior ranks, I don't think the CHL would bother to bat an eye.

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