Welcome to the fantasy world of NHL rumours

It is almost like stepping into another dimension.

According to the television analysts, the mainstream beat writers, and other people really plugged into what’s happening in hockey, it’s a quiet time for the NHL. There are a few long-rumored deals that are being quietly discussed: Shane Doan is still an unrestricted free agent, multiple teams are apparently interested in Jay Bouwmeester, that sort of thing. Typically, the names being discussed are the same names that were being discussed back on July 1, when free agency kicked off.

However, a crop of purported NHL insiders spins a very different tale, portraying a league where trade talks for high-calibre players are constant and unending. They number at least in the dozens, possibly even in the hundreds, and the stories they start have made them wildly popular with a subset of hockey fans.

Photo: Vincent Diamante/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 2.0

According to one, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Anaheim Ducks were involved in trade discussions about two weeks back that would have seen Ryan Getzlaf go to Toronto for a package of players. When a Toronto beat writer told him there was no substance to the story, he emphasized that the deal was “highly secretive.” Others wrote that Toronto was in fact talking to Colorado about Paul Stastny. Another agreed that the Leafs were talking to the Avalanche about a center, but named that center as Ryan O’Reilly. The suggestion that the Leafs were actually looking at a goaltender – commonly reported scenarios involved either a three-way trade with Florida and Vancouver or a deal with the Los Angeles Kings for backup Jonathan Bernier – also found a few proponents.

Where does this information supposedly originate? With "contacts" around the league. These insiders almost to a man claim to have some sort of current or former NHL background. Some allege that they are players, others player agents, others coaches, others front office personnel with either individual teams or at NHL headquarters. Still others – particularly those who focus on one team – simply state that they have a trusted source ensconced in that team’s management structure.

The suspension of disbelief required to accept all of these claims is baffling. NHL teams would need to be littered with personnel willing to leak confidential information to social media for no better reason than the love of leaking confidential information. Additionally, the fact that the various mainstream reporters miss this news needs to be explained somehow – and there is no especially logical explanation for why a dozen unidentified characters can all break the same story after talking to their people, yet somehow the major scoop can go entirely undetected by the professional media as a whole.

Then there is the other problem: failure. Anonymous insiders routinely get facts wrong, report contradictory information, or waffle on a story. A good example was the signing of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter by the Minnesota Wild, without question the biggest free agency coup of the summer. After the fact, Wild beat reporter Michael Russo revealed that both Parise and Suter had all but settled on Minnesota as their destination by the night of July 3. At that time, conventional wisdom was that Detroit would land Suter and Pittsburgh would sign Parise, and conventional wisdom was what the ‘insiders’ reported, almost without exception parroting those rumours. As mainstream reporters started to point to Minnesota as the destination for both players, the purported insiders started changing the story, weaving a tale of broken verbal agreements and even including comical asides – one said that Penguins captain Sidney Crosby was “RAGING” after Parise “lied to him.”

Despite the anonymous nature of these supposed insiders, the often wildly inaccurate reporting, and the long line of respected journalists willing to discredit them, they remain popular. While the majority are short-lived and never really impact the collective consciousness of hockey fans, some are incredibly successful. Eklund, the original anonymous insider, can boast more than 100,000 followers on Twitter and a steady stream of traffic to his website. He’s even reached the point where he can earn a press pass to NHL games and major events like the World Juniors. Most don’t reach that level of success, but a follower count north of 10,000 people* isn’t uncommon.

For years, whimsical fans have floated unrealistic trade proposals. Somewhere along the line, the people behind these anonymous accounts learned that there was an audience to be had if they were willing to turn those unrealistic trades into a sort of reality, lending credence to the idea that their teams really were working hard on those outlandish deals.

Really, that’s the reason why these sort of fake insiders persist. If it was really about fact, logic, or track record, they’d have long since gone the way of the dodo. That isn’t what their popularity is about, though: it’s based on telling people things they really want to believe. And as long as people want to believe something, they will find a reason to do so.

* Twitter follower counts should always be taken with a grain of salt – particularly when suspicious things happen. One prominent rumour account lost 18,000 followers – 36% of his base – in an incredibly short time period amid allegations that he’d been using fake accounts to make himself appear more influential than he actually was.

  • Whilte most of them make up random stuff, theyre still fairly good for the sport. Even If it’s a “yah right” response, I’d have to argue that they promote more hockey discussion during the dog days, then most other hockey sites, even if they’re only taken as “what ifs?”.

    While sites like eklund and the likes are never to be believed, I think most of the pure hatred being directed at them is out of jealousy. His site gets something like 1 million unique ips a month.

      • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

        Exactley, jealousy because their “legit” sites don’t register the numbers. It actually doesn’t affect anyone in any real way, hence the hatred is stupid.

        I would put it on the same level as all the hatred directed at nickleback. Sure they’re terrible, but they don’t dirrectly effect most of the people who go out of their way to slam the band. Jealousy, plain and simple.

  • KleptoKlown

    Reading tweets from these insiders is like watching WWF wrestling…You know it’s fake, but if you take it for what it’s worth, they are quite entertaining.

    Who doesn’t get excited by a Evander Kane for PK Subban trade rumour? I am 99.9% sure this rumor was pulled right from someones ass, but it’s still fun to talk about, discuss pros and cons, and generally live in a dream world.

    Sure beats the gloom and doom of the CBA…

  • KleptoKlown

    My personal favourite moment of fake insider idiocy this summer was when the “HockeyyInsiderr is legit” account claimed that Dreger had “nowhere near the quality and amount” of sources as HI.

    Which is especially funny considering Dreger cited Ray Shero (ie: the guy making the “news”) as his source when debunking the Parise to PIT garbage.

  • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

    I am stunned to hear Eklund is a fraud.

    A few years back he had an E666 (or something like that) rumour that he was sure that the Islanders were all over the Oilers to trade them Fernando Pisani. Pisani, at the time, was on the shelf battling colitis and was expected to be out indefinitely.

    That is what you call a rumour pulled out of one’s arse. I would rather support writers and websites that have some level integrity.

  • vetinari

    These bogus insiders are unethical and unaccountable to anyone, which is why they are so dangerous. Unfortunately, these clowns don’t realize or care that they affect people’s lives. I feel bad for professional athletes who have to deal with rumour and speculation from these types of sources. If the insider won’t put his or her real name beside their article, that tells you all you need to know about how reliable they are…

      • vetinari

        You don’t think these players have kids, spouses, and family members who might also be reading these bloggers? Can you imagine the stress on them to think that they might have their families uprooted or separated? Especially due to the unfounded rumours circulated by unethical half-witted blowhard hacks?

        • vetinari

          Did these family members suddenly just crawl out from a rock and discover the internet? Doubtful. Anyone one of these people in their extended family would have been dealing with the hockey world for years already, and know who the trusted sources are. The odd chance it happens,it would be a mild inconvience/annoyance. Hardly dangerous.

  • yawto

    This has always been one of my favorite subjects. I am not knocking you JW, I am just saying if you are like most people you give into this stuff everyday and because someone in your profession does it, it annoys you.
    What I am talking about is that we all spend time in line at the grocery store. While in line, we all check a half dozen pictures of the monthly hotties, three stories on how Brad and Angelina are divorced, married or cheating, two articles on Tom and Katie and one special magazine, my personal favorite, the one with the monkey boy or the end of the world is coming, the new prophecy, blah, blah, blah.
    My point John, is don’t let it bother you. People stand in line and always will reading quick flashes on rag mags. That is what eklund and these frauds do. He is hockey paparazzi. As long as people like you do credible work, along with all the other members of this site, they can do no harm. People pass through those sites, they come to sites like these to stay. Look at the bright side, guys like that bring exposure to your sport and make you look smarter everyday, win win.

  • Jay Gray

    I personally enjoy these sites. To me, any hockey talk is fun. I take them with a grain of salt though. I love to hear the different trade scenario’s and whatnot, but I don’t take too much stock in them.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Oilersnations own Wax Man Riley is our resident NHL insider. If i’m not mistaken he’s been dead bang on everything that’s happened so far. Guy is a lock when he says something. He lets us know 3 weeks in advance, instead of the 2 weeks Brian Hall use to give us….no wonder he put Hallsy out of business.

    Jim Matheson has nuthin on WM Riley. He’s the guy.

    • Wax Man Riley

      I don’t want to toot my on horn, but I did break the story about Semin going to Pittsburgh. My inside source Donkey Kong told me. He’s tight with Semin’s agent.

      *whisper, whisper, whisper*

      What? Semin went to Carolina? Malkin is pissed! Semin lied to him too!! Don’t even get me started about how Sid feels, he ACTUALLY unfriended Semin on Facebook.

  • Cowbell_Feva

    I find Eklund rediculous. As J-Dub mentioned, there is always a blockbuster deal around the corner. Of course after putting out 300 potential trade options, eventually one or two will come to fruition.

    The fact that I even knew who Eklund was, shows that I do find hockey talk interesting. Hell, thats how I found this site. Most of the rumours are flat-out stupid, but then again, so are a lot of the trade proposals people put on this site as well, just with less followers.

    BTW, I heard from a source that Hemsky and Pajaarvi were heading to Phoenix for a blueliner….stand by!!

  • Aitch

    I’d rather read a list of rumours than this drivel. By crafting a whole piece on why they’re bad, you’re no better at just throwing crap on the Internet.

  • At least the voices of the nation understand why these “insiders” are so popular. Sometimes reality just doesn’t cut it. The moment a random guess by an insider happens to come true, due to total random luck, the sheep swarm. hmmm … *thinking out loud* That would be a good album name. “The Sheep Swarm”. Next stop Shark Tank.

    .On a side note, I broke the Nash to NYR story on feb 14 via twitter by random luck where are my 50,000 followers? huh?

  • Pat Hughes ruled

    It must have been a slow day in article writing ville. I just read that Ebs wants to be traded. I hope that his family does not read it.
    The basement is rather cold today.