The internet is a wondrous thing. When you really stop to think about it, it was not that long ago that in order to get news about your favourite hockey club you would need to open up a copy of the newspaper, a magazine like The Hockey News, or wait patiently for a TV show to dedicate some airtime to the latest goings-on. Media access to your home-team was primarily reserved for a select, privileged few within traditional, slow-moving mediums. The proliferation of the internet, blogging, and twitter has changed almost everything about how fans can interact with the game they love.
I don’t really need to explain this. We live it everyday.
The rise of this informal economy of knowledge has greatly expanded the global conversation about hockey. The effect this has had on he game has largely been exceptionally positive. It cannot be a coincidence that the rise of blogging, access to information, advanced statistics, expanded team coverage, and other functions of the internet have corresponded with the largest period of financial growth that the NHL has ever experienced. The 24/7/365 nature of the NHL coverage from all corners of the web creates perpetual fan-interest in the league. And where there is interest, the internet proves that there will always be opportunists.
Those who make it their profession to break the latest news are held in very high regard with the hockey community. How else could one explain how Darren Dreger of TSN would have over 320,000 followers on twitter, or that Nick Kypreos would have over 100,000? Because of their respective standing within highly-regarded (for the most part) sports-news organizations, the information that you get from these two gentlemen generally comes from reliable, league-based sources. However, the power and notoriety that they have gained has inevitably given rise to a host of copy-cat news-breakers who hold varying levels of credibility, and employ varying levels of honesty when participating in the creation of hockey information.
I don’t need to name or link to them, but there are are many websites, bloggers and twitter users who try their darnedest to be the ones to break news of trades or signings, regardless of their lack of factual information. Even still, these rumour mongers do serve a purpose. There are many people who crave the latest information, and if there wasn’t a huge amount of consumer interest – the sites and twitter users would cease to exist. That said, I think consumers of this information need to be periodically reminded that these individuals are in the business of creating traffic, selling constantly breaking information, even when there may be none in reality.
I must admit that this very post was spurred on after a visit to a popular rumour site. I typically go to this site to read blogs by Eric Engels, a Canadians-accredited blogger whose work I admire greatly and which I wouldn’t hesitate to endorse. While on the site, however, I read about an incredibly poorly rationalized rumour regarding the possibility that another team was planning to sign an offer sheet with Canadiens’ RFA, PK Subban. The absurdity of the rumour struck me.
This summer – more than any other before it, rumour mongers have continually suggested that NHL teams would use offer sheets to sign RFAs. You’d think that this would be a common-place occurrence within the NHL, given how much air-time the notion has received. The fact is, since the lockout in 2004-05, there have been 7 offer sheets attempted with a grand total of 1 successful offer-sheet. The reason for this is simple: the cost to sign an RFA typically FAR outweighs the benefit to the team. And if the cost is not high, the player’s original team will almost certainly always match the offer.
Clearly the topic was given fuel this summer due to the offer to Shea Weber by the Philadelphia Flyers. Still, it is incredibly important to point out that that offer was an anomaly – in that the Flyers saw Weber as a generational talent – worth any price required in draft pick compensation. It could have cost the Flyers as many as 4 first round draft picks – depending on how the NHL determined Weber’s salary – given the wide disparity in dollars earned in the first years of the contract, compared with the back end.
PK Subban is good, but he is not a generational talent. Montreal would obviously match any reasonable offer, unless the bounty in draft picks was so great to make loosing Subban worth it. Its so unlikely to happen – that it almost never does in the NHL. Worse still, this particular rumour intimated the possibility that the offer-sheet could come from the Boston Bruins. That is where this rumour goes from baseless-speculation to moronic.
Among the many valuable internet resources that us hockey fans have at our disposal is capgeek.com. Here we can find in a moment that the Boston Bruins are currently only $1.3M from the salary cap maximum and that next season they will have 5 restricted free agents (Lucic, Marchand, Seguin, Caron, and Rask). This does not count important UFAs who could see a raise like Nathan Horton or Andrew Ferrence. What possible reason would Boston have to jeopardize their financial future to sign the good-but-not-elite PK Subban?
And yet, here are the rumour mongers, trying to fabricate any story that will generate click-throughs or twitter-followers, capitalizing on the enormous Montreal Canadiens fanbase, and their absolutely ridiculous online presence. These sites are widely-read because people care. We collectively share the desire to learn the most recent news, before it even occurs if possible. We want to hear about how our team is going to try to get better, and to talk about how we would accomplish this feat if only we had the keys to the organization. Yet, in doing so, we leave ourselves vulnerable to those who invent scenarios and pass them off as source-driven reality. My only hope is that we can enjoy the entertainment of speculation and the fun involved in proposing trade-scenarios without having to fall victim to outright falsities. This requires that internet citizens become a little less irrational and a little more savvy when participating in online communities. I think it also requires that bloggers like myself take these rumour mongers to task when they fabricate ludicrous scenarios without a shred of forethought, evidence, or credibility.