Friday, June 19, 2009

David Branch out to show the 'O' does not stand for 'Omertà'

Sunaya Sapurji, of Loose Pucks fame, touched on a topic that is near and dear to junior hockey fans, noting the Ontario Hockey is "in the market for an enforcer to lay down the law for teams when it comes to the existing rules regarding hazing, draft manipulation and excess player benefits."

This is kind of amusing, with Sapurji's gum-shoeing coming out on the very day that Kingston's Scott Harrington signed with the London Knights, which he just happened to fall to at the 19th overall pick after saying he was going to college:
"A survey of 17 of the OHL's 20 general managers conducted by the Star shows 13 believe there are teams manipulating their annual priority selection. However, when asked — off the record — if their own team has participated in draft manipulation, all 17 answered 'no.' "
However, Darren Ferris, who is adviser for, wait for it, Scott Harrington, might have hit the nail on the head:
"They don't need an enforcement officer, they need a development officer to go after the teams that don't develop players."
The kneejerk reaction is to wonder how much success Branch can have making a league with such an omertà culture more transparent.

It is a noble goal, though, and it is possible that there are younger, more open-minded people coming into the league who realize it's bad for business if there's a perception of a lack of oversight. The reality of the digital age means it would be harder for the league to keep something under the rug (imagine if the Windsor Spitfires hazing scandal had occurred in 2008 instead of 2005).

Sapurji's story note this enforcer's duties would cover everything, including draft manipulation, hazing and good old-fashioned payola (far be it to say that if someone wants to buy a 16-year-old's parents a new house in order to try to win a Memorial Cup, that's their problem).

Like Ferris said, this could go one step farther. Teams should be subject to audits of their entire hockey operation, especially those who give contract extensions to general managers who are 0 for the last 11 seasons when it comes to building a team which can win a playoff series.

The teams are franchisees and if the way they're running things are not up to snuff, the league should be able to take action. It is the same principle Harlan Sanders used to work on when he was building Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Meantime, feel free to interpret this as if the situation with Harrington was a last straw. Draft manipulation is nothing new in junior hockey and it's not even clear if it's completely negative.

The players and their parents deserve some say in where their little Dylans and Conors end up playing. Some might say the teams who pay the price are those who won't pay the price to get top-end players. The onus is a two-way street.

However, this is business and the league is right to worry about fallout from another Windsor or a feeling that the games are not on the level. After Harrington just happened to fall to the London Knights, there was an enough's-enough feeling.

OHL plans crackdown on teams breaking rules (Sunaya Sapurji, Toronto Star)


sager said...

Coming Down The Pipe's Dean Millard predicts the Kingston Frontenacs' Ethan Werek will be drafted 28th overall by the Chicago Blackhawks ... that would be something!

Dennis Prouse said...

Err, isn't that Branch's job? I can only surmise that he is looking for a Vice-Principal to do all of the discipline and dirty work while he shakes hands and kisses babies.