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PHN Blog: What is a Trade Rumor? Not What You Think

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Olli Maatta NHL Trade Rumors
Olli Maatta: Photo by Michael Miller @pensRyourdaddy

Any good Penguins trade rumors?

I’m asked this question probably a dozen times per day. My colleagues and friends who get paychecks from traditional media outlets probably get even more. I know what you mean when you ask about “rumors”. Heck, I used the term for years, too.

But the term has been soured by the fugazi clickbait stuff from fake twitter handles and profiteering merchants who have no insight or contact with teams.

Backstory–A decade ago, as this hockey internet thing was reaching the mainstream, I was one of the folks helping to push it there. My radio show in conjunction with a large hockey website had reached syndication with 15 stations across Canada and a few in the US. The website’s calling card was “trade rumors”.

I even dedicated a weekly segment on my show to the “Rumor Mill”.

Behind the curtain, I saw how business was done. I saw good people developing sources, working hard to make a career using this new avenue of breaking into the business and I saw people tossing aside integrity for a buck. As the hockey internet community was reaching its zenith, TSN was burned badly when they hired one of the latter for a trade deadline show. Let’s just say under the bright lights and scrutiny, it didn’t go well.

It set online hockey reporting back a decade or more. Maybe permanently damaged it.

And so when you ask for a “trade rumor”, you’re hoping for a whisper from a GM or the small circle of folks who discuss the real decisions, an echo off the walls or a little direction or background from a team employee close to the front office who knows the direction that little circle is headed.

That’s not a rumor, that’s actual reporting.

RedBeard's Pittsburgh

Friday, after reading that New York Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello told his hometown Norwegian newspaper that he expected to be traded and not finish his career with New York, I tweeted that he would be a great fit for the Penguins.

I absolutely believe that and believe specifically that player would elevate the Penguins. However, that’s simply my analysis based on history and style. Nothing more. I tried to clearly delineate that by including the disclaimer–“I don’t know if the Penguins see him as a fit…”

I have absolutely no idea if the Rangers are engaging in trade talks over Zuccarello or if the Penguins would be one of the suitors if they did. But THIS became a trade rumor. My DM’s were quickly lit up with good folks asking what I knew. I saw “rumors”, too.

That’s how rumors start, I guess.

I’m sure this little diatribe-slash-background piece will have no impact on the greater hockey community. But maybe when you see the next “rumor” from a site which is simply regurgitating fan desires mixed with their own creativity to create a “rumor cocktail”, you’ll know what it is.

As for sources, teams, players and agents are only sources. Agents are tricky as they can give reporters a rosy picture to benefit their client. There are a couple of those cats floating around. And teams also have an agenda. Some teams will drop information to put pressure on other teams or create sentiment which benefits them. Or teams downplay info which they believe doesn’t benefit them.

I have been told I got bad info, only to later find out I wasn’t so wrong and I’ve been told crystal clear info which turned out to be the individual opinion of a great source. In the old days, a reporter would make a dozen more calls to get a consensus and the story would print or air several days later.

Now, we have minutes. All part of the new world. Our Olli Maatta report this week is a prime example. We waited several days to print it but took into account the full context of what we had been told. We tried to walk a fine line between reporting a player could be traded for help and giving the false impression that the player was being shopped.

Rumors began the Penguins were shopping Olli Maatta. And THAT is why trade rumors aren’t to be trusted.

And I now see why reporters hate the word, “rumor”.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now owner, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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