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Junior Hockey

Georges Laraque, mystery spokesman step down from CHLPA 0

By Joe Warmington, Toronto Sun

Georges Laraque stepped down as executive director of the fledgling CHLPA. (QMI Agency file photo)

Georges Laraque stepped down as executive director of the fledgling CHLPA. (QMI Agency file photo)

TORONTO - 

Georges Laraque is stepping down from the controversy-plagued union that's been trying to organize Canada's junior hockey players.

He wasn't alone.

The mystery spokesman for the union also quit Thursday night, as did the union's lawyers in Alberta and Quebec.

All that's left at this point, are questions.

Laraque, executive director of the Canadian Hockey League Players Association, said the union intends to suspend its organizing activities "and will pass it along to a professional union that can do a better job."

He insists its not accurate to say he has quit because "I might stay with next group if they want me. I will need to brief them for sure because there have been a lot of things done."

Laraque still plans to attend a certification vote with Cape Breton Screaming Eagles players Friday.

"Obviously the vote will be no because they are scared but by law I have to be there," he said, adding "we need a union with a bigger team to deal with three leagues in 1,400 players.

"My heart was in the right place," Laraque said, adding organizers will now search to "choose the right union to take it forward."

For the past 48 hours there's been furious speculation that Derek Clarke, who's handled media for the CHLPA, could be Randy Gumbley -- a former junior coach and team owner with a penchant for fraud.

Laraque announced his intentions late Thursday, but earlier spoke with QMI Agency about Clarke.

"I talked to him tonight and he said he and his wife had a fight about this and that he has decided to step away," Laraque said. "He said this isn't what he signed up for."

Clarke, he insisted, is a mild-mannered Montreal computer salesman with a wife and two kids -- not the former coach and fraud artist Gumbley.

While admitting Gumbley's brother Glenn is involved in the upstart union, Laraque identified Clarke from a Linkedin picture sent by QMI Agency.

"All I know is Derek Clarke exists, Randy is not part of it (the union) and Glenn is there too," insisted Laraque. "I am 100% sure of it."

Meanwhile, the Canadian Hockey League, which represents Canada's major junior ice hockey leagues, issued a security advisory to member teams Thursday warning them to avoid "Clarke/Gumbley."

"In light of these allegations against Derek Clarke/Mr. Gumbley, the CHL is conferring with our security legal staff to determine what if any actions are appropriate," the league said in an interview posted by TSN.

Confusion would be the best word to describe what has become a surreal story.

QMI Agency sources learned that lawyers representing the CHLPA in Alberta effectively cut ties with the union, withdrawing from a certification bid before the Alberta labour board. Lawyers representing the players association in Quebec were considering doing the same thing.

Peel Regional police -- who charged Gumbley with fraud in 2009 -- are monitoring matter but have not actively opened an investigation, a police source told QMI Agency.

Investigators have been ordered to check the status of court orders against Gumbley and review those orders and any conditions against him, the source said.

And Yahoo! Sports reported that a consultant working with the CHLPA had been in contact with a union representative 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 website reported.

"The consultant said he had no contact with Derek Clarke and had never met either man in person."

TVA Sports in Montreal turned up union recruiting documents, a PowerPoint presentation, that had Randy Gumbley's name on it.

Many questions, but few answers.

Clarke himself, who has handled numerous media interviews for the CHLPA as the union has worked to organize players, didn't add any clarity to Yesterday's confusion.

Repeated calls to the number he normally uses were not returned.

TSN hockey insider Dave Naylor reported Thursday that he had interviewed Clarke over the telephone on three occasions and "it was a different Derek Clarke" the third time than it was the first two. Naylor interviewed Clarke in person Thursday in Montreal but Clarke refused to speak on camera.

For his part, Laraque insisted earlier yesterday that the CHL, which hired a private eye to check out Clarke, floated the association between Clarke and Gumbley to try "make the union look bad."

Confused?

Stay tuned.

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