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Dos and Don’ts of NHL Rumour Mongering

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With the Stanley Cup having been decided, it’s now time for the hockey world to move on to the part of the year that really matters (besides November). The early parts of the offseason are the most chaotic part of the NHL year, featuring buyouts, trades, free agency, and the draft. Roster turnover will never be higher than in the next few weeks.

With all these transactions, there are bound to be rumours flying around. But how do you, the fan, know who to trust, and what to make of everything you’re hearing? Well, here at PPP, we’re looking out for you. We made this guide featuring some do’s and don’ts so you know what you can do that you’re getting the most out of your offseason experience.

Do: Differentiate between reporting and speculation

As much as I like to crap on the media, reporters have a tough job. There’s an expectation that they’ll always have a scoop, and that there will always be some juicy discussions going on around the league worth reporting. But that isn’t always the case, and not every reporter is privy to the details of every transaction (or any transaction, if it involves Lou Lamoriello). So it’s no surprise that reporters will occasionally engage in some speculation, mixed in with their factual reporting. It juices up the Twitter followers, makes radio spots blow up, and brings attention to their parent company. When done in moderation, there’s really no downside from the reporter's point of view.

But for a consumer, that means you have to be careful. When someone is speculating, you’re getting their opinion. Some hockey reporters have opinions that are often reasonable and understandable (James Mirtle, as an example). Others ..... don’t. Look out for weasel words to identify speculation. Phrases that reduce the authoritative power of the statement like “may”, “possibly”, and “some are saying” are classic examples. If a reporter is relaying fact, it is less likely they use these sorts of phrases. Also, see if the wording the reporter uses is generic. If they say a team is looking to “make a splash” with no additional details, that carries far less weight than if they get into specifics.

Don’t: Blindly retweet.

Look, I get that this is hard. You’re scrolling down your Twitter feed, and in between two Crying Jordan memes you see a huge trade that was retweeted into your timeline. You just gotta retweet this too, right?

No. Slow down. Check the account this is coming from. Is it @FriedgeHNIC or @FridgeHNIC? Does it have a blue checkmark? How many followers does this person have? Do other media members follow him/her? It should also be a red flag if a well-known reporter gets RT’d into your timeline... odds are, you follow them, and the person that was RT’d is a fake (B0B McKenzie instead of Bob McKenzie). An extra 20 seconds of due diligence can prevent you from getting fooled by a 12 year old with nothing besides an Internet connection.

Do: Consider geography

A lot of team news is broken and disseminated by local reporters. Why wouldn’t it be? Those reporters are the people covering the team day-in, day-out for years upon years. They’re generally the most plugged into the situation with the team. So if you hear a really crazy rumour that is being reported by someone who isn’t in the geography of any of the teams the rumour involves, that should raise some red flags. In fact, we have a very convenient recent example:

For those not caught up, Jimmy Murphy, a Boston-based writer, apparently got the inside track on trade talks between Toronto and Arizona. Considering that no national or local media had reported anything other than perfunctory trade talks involving the #1 overall pick, this should be treated with a heavy, heavy dose of skepticism. Of course, some reporters have a wide reach. But if a local journalist you haven’t heard of starts reporting things between two teams he or she doesn’t cover, it should prompt further questions

By the way, that Murphy rumour is a TERRIBLE hockey trade for the Leafs.

Don’t: Listen to Internet forum trade rumours (including here)

One of the most fun parts about being a fan of any sports team is proposing fake trades and signings. We’ve all wanted to live out the power fantasy of being the GM of our favourite team, and the power of the Internet lets us pretend to do so. When done as a fun exercise, there's nothing wrong with rosterbation and discussing potential moves for a team, no matter how outlandish. That’s part of being a fan. But for the love of God, please don’t take fan discussion as evidence for a move happening, or even a player being on the block. Fans are (generally) not plugged into the team in any real way - it’s like a reporter speculating, but worse. Even if a fan IS in the know, there is literally no way to verify that, and there is no reason why that fan should have any credibility (unless they’ve previously established it). This goes double for HFBoards.

Do: Consider the source

This is the most elementary of these suggestions, but it pains me to see how many people forget to consider the source when it comes to a trade rumour. Some reporters sling shit for a living. Others are basically the word of God. Learn the reputations of the reporters who cover your team, and don’t give attention to the ones who have shown they’re unreliable.

Beyond the veracity of the reporter, consider their known biases. Steve Simmons is undoubtedly plugged into the NHL. Do I trust him to actually report facts? Not at all.

To use a recent example, think about all the reporters claiming that Nazem Kadri was as good as gone with the Leafs this past season, only for him to sign a long-term (and very team friendly) deal. Those people just outed themselves as talking out of their ass. Don't listen to them, and don’t click on their articles. Pay attention to the people that are actually attuned to the situation.

Don’t: Feed the trolls

So this is very much a “do as I say, not as I do thing”, because I get WAY too riled up by trolls and stupidity from reporters/media. But really, it’s self-defeating. It’s fun to kick up a storm and yell at the sky about how stupid some writer is for making some ridiculous claim, but that’s what they want out of it. They want a reaction, and they want people to talk about them in a passionate way.

That said, I think there is value in exposing stupid opinions, especially when peddled by the mainstream media. These people inform the vast majority of fans, and the opinions they espouse find their way into the collective consciousness of fanbases as a whole. That’s the reason why some guys I play hockey still say that the Penguins would have won the Cup if Kessel wasn't on the team... because years and years of opinions and narratives have been created about him to reinforce that (despite it obviously being false). Exposing stupidity, and more importantly, explaining why the idea is flawed is likely the best way to actually combat it. Indignant anger probably isn’t.

If you see a rumour, piece of writing, or any other media content that is obviously false, slanderous, or designed to anger, don’t fall for it. Explain why it’s wrong, using logic, reason, and common sense, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t do much good to give yourself an ulcer over some idiot with questionable scruples and an unfortunately large platform. Relish your ability to ignore reporters who don’t cut the mustard.