Ed note: After this story was published Georges Laraque announced he was stepping down as the executive director of the CHLPA.
When the proposed Canadian Hockey League Players’ Association started, the message they came with was simple: We aren’t trying to line our pockets, this is about the players.
This is about a better education.
This is about a better future for the 1,400 playing in North America’s top junior league.
Since August, the CHLPA has enveloped itself in relative anonymity, save a few lawyers, executive director Georges Laraque – the face of the organization – and spokesperson Derek Clarke, the voice and driving force representing the proposed union.
Now, as it turns out, the Canadian Hockey League wanted to have that veil of secrecy lifted, so they hired a private investigator to help them.
Clarke was at the forefront of that investigation, because there were questions raised about his identity.
“We started to get concerned based on the information coming to us,” said CHL president and OHL commissioner David Branch on Thursday afternoon. “So we did this for the safety and security of our players. We felt it was important to find out who Derek Clarke is and there were repeated requests to find out who he was and we never had any contact.
“Our private investigator never did find out who Derek Clarke is.”
In a new twist, apparently Derek isn’t the only Clarke working for the CHLPA.
A consultant who has been working with the CHLPA said he has been in contact with a man at the proposed union named Glen Clarke.
The phone number he provided to Yahoo! Sports for Glen Clarke, is the same Montreal-area phone number Derek Clarke has been giving out as his contact to members of the media. The consultant said he had no contact with Derek Clarke and had never met either man in person.
At the time, he assumed both Clarkes were relatives.
All contact Yahoo! Sports had with the CHLPA came via email with a person identifying himself as Derek Clarke. Both Glen Clarke and Derek Clarke used the same generic email account belonging to the CHLPA – Glen for union business and Derek for correspondence with the media.
“It made me suspicious about why are two people using the same email address?” said the consultant, who requested anonymity.
Calls left for a person identifying himself as Derek Clarke were not returned. Calls left for Glen Clarke at the same number were also not returned.
When asked if there was a Glen Clarke working for the CHLPA, Laraque said there must have been a mistake because the only “Glen” working for the proposed union is Glenn Gumbley.
On Wednesday night, various media reports alleged that a person identifying himself as Derek Clarke was Randy Gumbley, who was convicted of defrauding young hockey players out of more than $100,000 in 2009.
During reports broadcast on both TVA Sports and TSN various people – including Laraque -- were shown photos of Randy Gumbley, who they identified as Derek Clarke. Later in his interview with TVA Sports Laraque backtracked and said he had never met or spoken with Randy Gumbley.
On Thursday, Laraque said he had a completely valid explanation for all the confusion.
“Glenn works for the CHLPA and that’s Randy’s brother,” said Laraque, who noted that there is a strong resemblance between the two. “Randy has nothing to do with the CHLPA. Glenn was there (at the CHLPA) before I was there. I only got there this past August. Glenn has no criminal record… and he helps out with the CHLPA.”
When asked why Derek Clarke and Glen Clarke share the same phone number and email account, Laraque said he did not know. He said he’s never met anyone at the union by the name Glen Clarke.
“But if somebody told you that, it’s possible, I’m not sure,” said Laraque.
He believes that the CHL is trying to “taint the reputation” of the proposed union. He also said that if Randy Gumbley was associated in any way with the CHLPA, he would resign immediately.
“If ever there was proof that he was (associated with the CHLPA) I would quit,” said Laraque. I would never be part of a union that would be associated with anyone that had a criminal record – that’s for sure.”
Messages left for lawyers Michael Mazzuca and Ron Pink – who are also working on the CHLPA’s behalf – were not returned.
On Thursday night the proposed union suffered another blow when the Calgary Herald reported that Victory Square Law Office LLP – who represented the CHLPA in their fight to certify as a union in Alberta -- announced they were withdrawing their counsel.
During one discussion with the CHLPA consultant, Glen Clarke said that he was in the film production and movie-making business in Montreal.
TSN’s Dave Naylor reported on Wednesday that he had been in contact with two different men identifying themselves as Derek Clarke. According to Naylor one of the men purporting to be Derek Clarke said that, “he has a film production company in Montreal.”
The Quebec Film and Television Council told Yahoo! Sports that there is neither a Glen Clarke nor a Derek Clarke listed in their database. The Quebec Film and Television Producers Association also has no listing for either Clarke.
In the aftermath of questions surrounding their spokesperson’s identity, the CHLPA announced that Derek Clarke would be making an appearance on TSN on Thursday to explain the issue. Later in the day, Naylor tweeted that he met with Derek Clarke but he refused to appear on camera.
Since its inception, the CHLPA has been reluctant to reveal who was involved in the effort to bring together the players from the CHL’s three leagues. It appears that answers were hard to come by for even those working for the group. When the consultant, who was working pro bono, asked who was on the CHLPA’s board, the response was vague.
“I asked a couple of times and (Glen Clarke) would never give me any names,” said the consultant. “Other than, ‘there are a group of people’ … I’m curious to see what is going on as much as anybody."