TORONTO - First it was Derek Clarke, then it was Frances Poirier and then it was Randy Gumbley. Next itíll be Humpty Frigginí Dumpty.
Just when you thought that news out of the hockey world couldnít get any more pathetic (i.e. the continuing NHL lockout saga), comes this twist: The spokesman for the fledgling Canadian Hockey League Playersí Association Derek Clarke may in fact be Randy Gumbley, a guy twice convicted of fraud.
There are also reports that someone who is not Derek Clarke is pretending to be Derek Clarke. As well, a guy claiming to be Derek Clarke said he isnít Randy Gumbley. You following all this? Meanwhile, the CHLPA has Ďcategoricallyí denied any connection with Randy Gumbley. Further to all this, my old sports editor George Gross used to call me Joe. But, hey, I didnít make a big deal out of it.
However, this Clarke thing supposedly is a big deal, at least when there is little Ďrealí hockey news to report, other than mind-numbing lockout updates.
Yeah, I get it. Any player, former player, or person working for the NHLPA is going to rail against the NHL. You donít have to keep parading these guys out in public, or on TV or in the pages of newspapers. Newsflash. Most people trying to make a living and provide for their families donít give a ratís ass about the lockout at this point, and they certainly donít empathize with billionaire owners and millionaire players. So enough with the long faces and pleas for understanding.
Anyway, I suppose this Clarke-Gumbley-Dumpty situation is intriguing if you care about the drive by the upstart CHLPA to unionize junior hockey players.
I certainly donít, though the CHLPAís intentions seem to be, on paper at least, honourable - to improve the educational packages for the players.
But if the allegations are true, if spokesperson Clarke is actually someone else, you can throw all the good intentions out the window. Which is unfortunate.
Whatís alarming is the fact that this controversy seems to be yet another example, in a long line of examples, of junior hockey attracting any number of predators, weirdos and wannabes. As my esteemed colleague Steve Simmons explained; junior hockey is a field of dreams for people who want to hit it big. If youíre not good enough to make it to the NHL, at least through the front door, then I guess you try other more nefarious means, on the backs of kids. That appears to be the case here, and sadly itís nothing new.
Junior hockey at the highest level in Canada has endured a roguesí gallery of miscreants and scam-artists, including disgraced sports agent David Frost, the target in the Mike Danton murder-for-hire scandal; Graham James, the junior coach was convicted for sexually assaulting some of his players, including future NHL star Theo Fleury; and John OíSullivan, the father of former Mississauga Ice Dogs star Patrick OíSullivan, who was jailed after assaulting his son.
There are more examples.
CHLPA executive director Georges Laraque must have thought he won the lottery when the NHL locked out its players a few weeks back. With no games, hockey scribes were actually paying attention (somewhat) to the CHLPA. Of course, now it has backfired on poor Georges, who reportedly plans on stepping down when a replacement can be found.
Yeah, you have to figure that the CHLPA is a real professional organization when there is such mass confusion over who the spokesperson for the union may or may not be. CHL president David Branch is probably laughing his ass off. Iím sure he shaking in his boots.
So who is Derek Clarke? I know exactly who he is. Heís a guy who scored 35 goals in a 178 appearances for Oxford United between 1970-76.
The difference between that Derek Clarke and the hockey Derek Clarke is ... in a few days, everybody will forget about the hockey Derek Clarke, or whatever the #$%^ his real name is.