Law firms bail on fledgling CHLPA

OHL Commissioner David Branch



TORONTO - The last of the lawyers acting for the embattled Canadian Hockey League Players' Association have flown the coop, according to a source from junior hockey.

In what may be another step toward the end for the new and controversy-filled CHLPA, the three remaining law firms that were working for the fledgling players' union withdrew their services on Friday, less than 24 hours after two other law firms - one in Alberta and another in Quebec - decided to part ways with the association.

The exodus follows reports that some junior hockey officials had concerns over the identity of mysterious CHLPA spokesman Derek Clarke, thought by some to really be convicted felon Randy Gumbley.

Gumbley is a former coach and minor-team owner who was found guilty on two occasions of defrauding young players and their families with bogus hockey-skills programs.

"All the law firms have withdrawn," Ontario Hockey League head David Branch told QMI Agency, adding that CHLPA director Georges Laraque and a man claiming to be the real Derek Clarke had already resigned from their positions with the association late Thursday.

"We are no longer acting as counsel to the CHLPA," said lawyer Michael Mazzuca of the Ontario-based firm Gibson and Barnes, adding that his firm would nonetheless continue to support the unionization of junior players.

Denis Bradet, reportedly a CHLPA board member, is a Quebec lawyer who pulled out Thursday. Bradet told another Toronto newspaper that "we became aware of certain allegations concerning a person in the association and we decided to terminate the (agreement)."

As of late Friday afternoon, Mazzuca's firm remained on the CHLPA website, as did the BC-based Victory Square Law Office and the US-based Willig, Williams and Davidson. The lawyers from those firms who were acting for the CHLPA - Sebastien Anderson and Stuart Davidson, respectively - did not return calls.

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