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Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Well, this news literally came out of nowhere, even though it was reported that a CHL Players Association was 14 months in the works.  However, for most of the players it came out of nowhere as many of them professed no idea that this was even remotely considered. 

As a full time teacher, I know fully well both the good and the bad of being a shop steward and a member of a union.   This idea seems, to me, a tad far fetched to have any real impact on a CHL player.  It is a well-known fact that CHL players are a source of cheap labour and the mechanisms of business have changed greatly over the years.  Some CHL teams play in state of the art scaled down versions of NHL arenas.  There is a national TV deal and a large number of regional channels has the CHL as one of the backbones of their programming schedule.  

Still, when I see the typical OHL owner I do not exactly picture a hand wringing Montgomery Burns or an arrogant Donald Trump standing at the bow of the ship cracking the whip against an exploited hockey player.  Yes, CHL players are compensated at meagre levels, one report stating that little has changed since Bobby Orr plied his trade for the Oshawa Generals.  Also, they are expected to be faces of the community, going to schools, open skates, and open practices, among other obligations.   All this is on top of attending school and practicing and playing 68 games a year.  It is a grind, but the carrot at the end is a chance to be drafted to the best league in the world or to continue playing pro hockey in one of the many other leagues around. 

Many players would give their right eye for that opportunity, regardless of the lack of compensation.   They accept the grind and in many cases embrace the limelight of being a minor celebrity.  What is not to like?   

I do think there is a role for representation in the CHL, but not as far reaching as a full-fledged union, more like an ombudsmen who could deal with issues on a case by case bases.  Plus, coaches and GM's already deal with media, agents, and parents.  Now you want to add a union to that? 

 Personally, I would like to the CHL address the following issues with its players.  Maybe it would not involve a full-fledged union negotiation, but certainly someone acting in the best interest of the players. 

- No trade during the school year for high school aged players
- A schedule freeze at final exam time (the last week of January)
- a raise in compensation from the reported $50 to $125 per week
- Some sort of financial incentive for participation internationally (World Jr , Hlinka) and also for other marketing purposes (Video Games etc)

It is a noble idea with the well-spoken bi-lingual Georges Laracque as the head.  I just cannot see a sustainable viability at this point.   

Saturday, August 18, 2012


Many people know that I am a full-time secondary school teacher, while broadcasting on the side (the official term is "freelance", but saying on the side makes it a little more mysterious).   The news has been full of the expiration of the collective agreement at the end of this month and the governments need to try and recoup some of a 15B deficit that they have rung up during their tenure.

 I know that I will go back to school in September and it will be "business as usual", though without an agreement it will be a little bit of a different atmosphere.  Teacher bashing has become a favourite pastime of many of the mainstream media.  I expect it from the anti-union right wing Sun, but not so much from The Star or the Globe and Mail.  Both of the latter papers have taken veiled shots at teachers from time to time and the comments sections have been full of vitriol against teachers and unions.  If that is people's opinions, that's fine as that it was a forum is for.  It is a tad misguided and I think that people like to believe they know teachers because they sat in a classroom for upwards of 13 years and were likely bored by some teachers along the way.

Also, lets face it, teachers have not exactly been portrayed very favourably in movies or TV.  For every "Dead Poets Society" and "Mr Holland's Opus" there has been "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" "Summer School", the list goes on and on.  TV is worse.  It seems that every teacher is either a stereotyped buffoon or nerd, or plot lines are spiced up with a teacher having a dangerous liaison with a student.  It's happened on Degrassi, Boston Public and shows like Mr. D and Saved by the Bell delight in lampooning the profession. 

I 've long since accepted that will be a wage freeze of some sort for the next two years, and I know that it is in the best interest of all to have a stable collective agreement, but it does have to have an element of fairness to it.  Time will tell I suppose. 

The NHL collective agreement has got my attention as well.   As an OHL broadcaster, I know that there are quite a few IceDogs who are anxious to get their pro-careers going. Many magazines have already tabbed Ryan Strome and Dougie Hamilton for the NHL already, while guys like Mark Visentin, Freddie Hamilton, Jamie Oleksiak, Alex Friesen and David Pacan are likely tabbed for the AHL, a league that will not be affected by the lockout and will start in mid-October. 

For the freelance (now I'm talking media, I will use the official term) broadcaster last year saw a ton of movement as teams like Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Phoenix, Washington and Calgary all saw TV or radio on-air personnel changes.   This year as hockey holds its collective breath, the same goes for the job market.  It has been very quiet in the hockey opportunity market as there is no need to expand on-air coverage, while there is no coverage to be had.

Again, settled agreements are better for the overall health of the industry and for this broadcaster, there is hope a settled agreement will catapult the search for fresh on-air talent!

Steve Clark

Saturday, August 11, 2012


It's the second week of August, so save for the trade embargo lifting on August 1st, these should be quiet days in the Ontario Hockey League until training camps open up later in the month.    That statement could not be farther from the truth as there are several pressing an issue casting a shadow over the Ontario Hockey League right now. 

$400 000, three first round draft picks and two second round draft picks.  Harsh justice indeed for the Windsor Spitfires whose player recruitment tactics were seen to be outside of the leagues rules for such a thing.  An investigation that began in 2010 concluded this week with Commissioner David Branch dropping the hammer down on the Spits.   Lots of speculation, and lots of people want names named, which to me speaks more to the curiosity factor or a zest to be in the know rather than anything altruistic.  Though this blog is not "traditional media", and not exactly the Washington Post, speculating, to me, would be foolish on this end.   You can probably do a little investigative research and come up with a short list of players worthy of scrutiny, but the bottom line is the league figures that they did their due diligence, while Windsor maintains their innocence.    I have no doubt that 19 other OHL owners likely did a very careful Q and A with the GM/Coach/Head Scout etc, and a forensic investigation of their roster recruitment.  Will there be more shoes to drop?   Not going to speculate, investigate or take an educated guest.  This is is a blog, and I'm a play by play guy, not 60 Minutes. 

 It has been a busy off-season in Windsor as there was already controversy afoot when all three of the TV broadcasters were replaced/dismissed/phased out/ going through a period of transition- choose your poison.   Dom Papa, Bill Kelso and Brian Trenholm are all not being welcomed back, with Papa and Kelso doing plenty of talking in the press about the process.  Regardless it appears that there will be a new crew in Windsor in the upcoming season. 

It has been no secret that fan support has ranged from sporadic to non-existent for the OHL in the GTA.  Both Mississauga and Brampton have had trouble sustaining a consistent fan base.   Mississauga has chosen the re branding route to dry and drum up support, as they are know the Steelheads. Brampton will know their immediate OHL future as of August 31st when their lease at the Powerade Centre is up.   Try as they might the Battalion have only drawn about 2000 fans, sometimes less on a nightly basis.  It is wondered if their owner is willing to absorb another lease of potential loss.  The Powerade Centre is more than a suitable OHL home, though with hard blue plastic benches behind one net, it does have an unfinished look to it.  Talk of a new scoreboard appears to have gone by the wayside, though I hardily doubt a new scoreboard will draw in the casual fan.   If the lease is not renewed days could be numbered for Brampton as an OHL franchise.   This would be a shame, as Brampton has had a number of very good teams, with Stan Butler as the constant.  He has been with the franchise as their Head Coach since Day One.   

With the former Tullio Arena, undergoing extensive renovations, the Erie Otters with phenom Connor McDavid in toe, will take their training camp on the road, eschewing sites such as Newmarket and Fort Erie, for, wait for it....Ancaster!  This may raise a few eyebrows as speculation had bombastic owner Sherwood Bassin kicking the tires in Hamilton as recently as May as he sought a new lease in Erie.  This was first reported by the Spectators' Scott Radley, a reporter not known for fiction, but rather a solid reporter who prefers to deal with the facts.   Now, the choice of Ancaster may just be convenient scheduling and a nice arena to work from, but the conspiracist may think there is more to the choice.   Irregardless, the move is a nice coup for Ancaster who will get to see the aforementioned David, author of over 200 points in minor midget last year and everybody's choice for the next big thing.   

TV Cogeco kicks of its broadcasting schedule for the Niagara Ice Dogs with Exhibition games on Thursday September 6 (Erie) and Saturday September 15h (Sudbury)  Niagara will get the first regular season look at McDavid on Thursday September 20th as Erie will be guests at Niagara's home opener.  

Myself, Ed Burkholder and Al Galloway are all back for our 6th season of home coverage.