Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Modus Operandi

"It takes two. Just because you have your hand out, you're not shaking hands if the other guy is sitting on his."

It's been close to a month since the term "CHLPA" first starting circulating around junior hockey. It's also been close to a month since we began extending our open invitation to Georges Laraque or someone else - anyone else - from the CHLPA to come on the show.

As responsible broadcasters, Dean and I want to present both sides of a story. Unfortunately, while there has been no shortage of guests willing to come on The Pipeline Show to discuss the CHLPA from the perspective of player, agent, coach, general manager or media... it's been almost zero communication from the CHLPA itself.

I say 'almost zero' because there have been a few emails back and forth although I think you'll agree, actual communication hasn't been the goal from their end.

We've come to a crossroad on TPS. Do we continue to talk about and offer a platform to the CHLPA or do we follow the example of David Branch and the CHL - ignore them until there is something to actually talk about?

It's been a small debate for us but the email we received from them last week followed by the text we got from an agent about them has pretty much made the decision for us.

August 21st was the date I first attempted to contact the CHLPA. I had to use their Twitter account but they gave me the email address to use in order to request a guest for the show. I sent two requests that day for a representative to come on the show that night.
With no reply, I emailed again on August 25th to ask for the name of the public relations contact and to get his or her direct email or number. With none of the emails successfully getting a response, I tried the original Twitter a few times again. Nothing.

I decided to send an open invitation on September 4th and announced the same that night on the air. Any Tuesday or Saturday they wished, they could have the first segment to share their message.  Plus, I asked again for the contact information for the media relations person.

Finally I did get a reply:

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Tuesday, September 04, 2012 8:50 PM
Subject: RE: Georges Laraque radio request  


In case our last email didn't reach you...

Thanks for the email... Georges has been extremely busy over the past few weeks as you can imagine, and the staff at CHLPA as well



I assumed that would be Derek Clarke, the spokesperson quoted in a couple of articles that came out in August. I reiterated that the invitation was open to Laraque or to anyone else from the CHLPA including to Derek. Again... no response.

On September 9th I emailed again reminding the CHLPA that we had been holding the first segment of each show open for them should they wish to make use of the air time. No reply. 

The first segment of the show on September 11th had Dean and I outlining the 10 questions we would like to ask the CHLPA if they ever came on the show. That night Dean jotted an outline of that segment for the blog with the hope that it would eventually get back to the CHLPA and hopefully encourage them to come on the program. And finally we got a response!

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Wednesday, September 12, 2012 10:40 AM
Subject: RE: Georges Laraque radio request

Good Morning Guy,

It was brought to our attention that Derek's last name is incorrect on the "top 10 list" which has been prepared by your show for the CHLPA. Just giving you a heads up.


Dean had inadvertently written Derek Grant which I immediately corrected after getting the note. I was a bit frustrated to get an unsigned email though, especially since I had been requesting the contact information for a few weeks by that point. Then, another email to say that Derek's name was still misspelled - not how it was incorrect, just that it was.

I went back to the couple of articles in August where Derek Clarke was quoted - one had an 'e' at the end of his name, the other did not. I added the 'e' and emailed the CHLPA back, since the lines of communication had suddenly been thrust open, and asked if they were ready to come on the show and why they continued to send unsigned correspondence.

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Wednesday, September 12, 2012 1:53 PM
Subject: RE: Georges Laraque radio request 


I believe we answered Dean yesterday regarding interview.


I checked with Dean; he had not had any contact with them. Finally I had reached the end of my patience. The following is the email that I sent the CHLPA on September 12th:

Hello... Anonymous,

I spoke with Dean Millard after receiving the email from you and he says that he has never sent an email to you nor has he ever received one from you.

The only response we have gotten from the CHLPA so far in regard to actually coming on the show was on September 4th: "Georges has been extremely busy over the past few weeks as you can imagine, and the staff at CHLPA as well."

As for the misspelling of Derek's name... that could have been alleviated with your first email if you would have simply done what any reputable media contact does: provide it for us. After your second email on the subject of Derek's name you still have not done that nor have you signed YOUR name to your own email. That is not how any serious organization communicates with the media.  

At this point, due to your lack of professionalism, you have given very little reason for the media to believe that the CHLPA currently amounts to anything more than a prank. We have continually offered you a platform to come on our show where you can share your message to our junior hockey audience across North America and have thus far received nothing from you but blunt, unsigned emails not unlike something a kid in grade 8 would produce.      

I will repeat my list of requests:

  1. I would like the name of the media contact for the CHLPA
  2. I would like that media contact's email address and phone number 
  3. We would like to speak with Georges Laraque on the show for 10-12 minutes on either a Tuesday evening (7:05 pm MST) or Saturday morning (10:05 am MST) 
  4. I would also like an outline of your management structure - names, titles, backgrounds.
  5. I would like a list of names for the 60 player reps from the 60 CHL teams that Derek claims have been in place since before August 21st.

The first two should be an automatic as no credible organization withholds that information.

The third... it would be in your best interest for Georges Laraque to be on our show, a show that is dedicated to junior and college hockey. Our audience IS the same demographic as yours including the players you claim to represent. I suggest Tuesday September 18th, just prior to the start of the CHL season, would be your most opportune time to maximize the impact of your message.

The last two requests I realize may be things you would prefer not to divulge at this time but doing so should help establish a little credibility for the CHLPA. What has most in the media frustrated is that no one knows who is behind the CHLPA curtain. You can't realistically expect support when all anyone knows about your organization is a Twitter feed and a Facebook page. 

I eagerly await your response.
Guy Flaming
The Pipeline Show
TEAM 1260 Edmonton

I'm sure you can sense the frustration that had been building up over the weeks. Keep in mind that all this time the CHLPA had been releasing statements on Twitter and Facebook, many of them of the type that someone should have been accountable for like the meaningless release of estimated ticket revenues for all 60 CHL teams last season. 

Meanwhile, an overaggressive CHLPA supporter began a rampant drive-by campaign on any media person who dared question the motives of the ultra-secretive union. Suddenly, wanting to know who was behind the scenes of the CHLPA meant that people like myself, Swift Current play-by-play voice Shawn Mullin, Guelph Storm voice Steve Fitzsimmons and beat writer Tony Saxon, CHL analyst Mike Farwell, Yahoo! scirbes Sunaya Sapurji and Neate Sager and a host of others (including parents and players) were suddenly anti-player and anti-education. 

I wrote the above email hoping to finally, finally, get the information I was after and for someone to come on the show. This was the reply from the CHLPA:

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Wednesday, September 12, 2012 5:54 PM
Subject: RE: Georges Laraque radio request


Thanks for your email, unfortunately too busy to read it. When we get around to it I'll be sure to let you know.


Message received loud and clear. The CHLPA has absolutely zero intention of operating in an open and professional manner. None. The indignation and contempt for the media is pretty obvious to me.

Unfortunately the story doesn't end there. After all, this isn't really about whether they choose to come on the show or not, it's about what they are really hoping to accomplish and how they will go about doing it.

I have been to a handful of WHL preseason games and have spoken with a number of players about the CHLPA and what they know. So far, the players that I have talked with know nothing more than what the public has read online.

The CHLPA would have you believe that its because a unified silence from 1300 players across the country is necessary right now so players are basically, playing dumb.

But when players like Swift Current defenceman Graham Craig (Sept 8th) and Kamloops forward Dylan Willick (Aug 27th) speak openly and question the motives of the CHLPA, I'll take their word for it.

Perhaps the most shocking of all was a text Dean received on September 12th from an agent that actively represents players in the CHL. The agent had just finished speaking with one of his players who relayed a rather disturbing story involving an encounter with someone claiming an affiliation with the CHLPA: 

"Wow, a CHLPA guy walks in on team unannounced as they're having dinner after a game tonight. Introduces himself by saying 'Hi, I'm Jake but please call me John'. Handed these guys a sheet asking them all to sign. No info, no details... nothing. YIKES!! Left guys more confused. 

Scary thing is, a lot of guys just signed because they believed they should and not because of the relevance of anything being presented. That is somewhat scary to me. Anyway, just thought I'd give you some background on some of what is happening based on what my guys are telling me."
Then came a report last week out of the QMJHL that suggested more than 50% of the players in the league had signed some sort of CHLPA membership card.  I immediately thought of the text from the agent - is that same sketchy scenario being played out in the QMJHL and across Canada? 
It also made me think of something a media colleague had written to me recently:
"Their may one day be a CHL players union and it may one day make the world a better place. But that will never erase the fact these guys have been unprofessional, petty, secretive, underhanded, confrontational, disrespectful and darn right lazy. How can they expect people to respect them given how they have progressed."
So what should our role in this be moving forward? We've spent a month pointlessly offering airtime to the CHLPA who clearly have no intention of accepting it. It seems somewhat redundant to keep inviting guests who inevitably share the same viewpoint; that the CHLPA is something between a mysterious shadow organization and an elaborate practical joke. 

But then you get the story of Jake/John dropping in on a group of players uninvited and unannounced with pen and paper in hand... is there a responsibility for we, as media, to expose what appears to be operations that may not be entirely above board?

Tonight on The Pipeline Show we will speak with an agent and ask him his opinion. Here is a person who definitely has the player's best interests in mind - what are his concerns when he hears the story outlined in that text? Does he have a message for the players or for their parents?

And we want to hear from you the listener and the reader too. Should we continue to put the CHLPA under the microscope until such time as they pull back the curtain so everyone can see what is going on behind the scenes? 

Or, by spending so much time talking about the CHLPA, are we guilty of fanning the flames of what might otherwise already have been a pile of dying embers? 
The answer is probably "both". If the CHLPA isn't going to operate in the open then players and their families should have as much knowledge about them beforehand as possible. That's the reason we decided that we should share the series of emails we have exchanged over the last month and why that text absolutely needs to be seen and talked about.

We'll speak with the agent about it tonight but where we go from there is uncertain.


Anonymous said...

in this day and age of instant media how can anyone hope to succeed in the public arena with out transparincy

GZ Expat said...

I think you should continue to pursue this story, as its a lot bigger than a 'joke'. From day one, this felt like a money grab, or robbery, you pick the term. The story you relate from the agent about the someone showing up at a team dinner...that smacks of criminal and fraudulent and that is something that needs to be exposed.

Anonymous said...

As a parent of a recent Whl grad I find the approach of the chlpa apprehensable. These kids do not understand the process of how a credible organization should be approaching them and therefore are being taken advantage of. If I were still a parent of a player in Whl I would be talking with my son immediately and tell him to say nothing, talk to no one,, and for god sake don't sign anything until the shroud of secrecy is unveiled and the chlpa begins showing signs of being a credible professional organization. I find it hard to believe that Georges Laraque would put his name behind such an unprofessional group and contribute to the unprofessionalism.