Murphy’s Hockey Law: When did reporting on possible trades become offensive?
What if the hockey media never wrote about trade rumors? What if hockey reporters never allowed you the fan and reader behind the scenes or in on some of the numerous nuggets of info they gather from sources every day? What if all you got to read when you hop online or on social media were game stories and straight, opinion-free puff features? Would you still look forward to reading your daily dose of hockey news? Would those pieces get you through the monotony of the work day or would the stories themselves become monotonous?
The guess here is that the masses would complain in unison that the hockey media had become boring and that there would be an outcry for the buzz and excitement that trade rumors create. But yet over the last few seasons, players, fans and even media themselves have gone on the warpath against some hockey reporters — including yours truly — who do their best to provide legit and fair trade rumors. Now are there rumor-mongering reporters out there who throw the proverbial poop (for lack of a better term) against the wall hoping it sticks? Of course, there are and even more in this social media, quick-hit, media world.
Yet thankfully we still have the opposite end of the spectrum with the likes of Bob McKenzie or Darren Dreger. But in between those two groups is the rest of us hockey media folk doing our best to separate fact from fiction and what is a legit trade rumor. So when a proven and hard-working hockey reporter like Joe Haggerty of CSNNE.com is widely lambasted because, in the eyes of some colleagues, he had the audacity to report the Bruins were gauging the possible returns trading captain Zdeno Chara and forward Brad Marchand would bring, this hockey scribe takes offense.
Haggerty was simply reporting the Bruins were doing “due diligence” on the value of Chara and Marchand, not as some have suggested, stir the pot and create something out of nothing. Not once in Haggerty’s piece does he claim that the Bruins are “shopping” Chara. In fact, Haggerty goes out of his way to repeatedly stress these talks regarding the 2009 Norris Trophy winner and Marchand were “exploratory”.
One area of the current hockey media landscape that should come under more fire is the ‘fanboy’ contingent that is now being credentialed and accepted by many as actual reporting. In this piece, the author accuses Haggerty of possible libel. Yes, that’s right, by using legit and reliable sources and reporting that the Bruins are exploring (remember not shopping or attempting to trade) the possible trade value of Chara and Marchand, Haggerty is somehow committing the most heinous act a journalist can commit.
The reasoning behind this serious accusation? Dreger and Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet.ca stated that their Boston sources said they are not shopping Chara and Marchand. Actually in an interview on TSN 690 in Montreal, Dreger did say his Boston sources claimed there was “nothing to the rumors” but not once did those sources or Dreger flat out deny what Haggerty wrote. Same goes for Friedman in his latest 30 Thoughts. In fact — and I’ve been told the same by many around the league — Friedman speculated that Haggerty’s story may have been an attempt by the Bruins management themselves to get their team — who at the time was 0-3-0 — jumpstarted.
“Part of me wonders if this is an attempt to light a fire under the players,” Friedman wondered.
That would make a ton of sense and while if true, Haggerty and no reporter likes being used by sources but teams do it all the time. Sometimes it does end up sparking a player and other times it can irk the player to the point they call out the reporter. That in the eyes of this puck scribe is happening far too often these days.
The main theme of that column though was defending Marchand and NHL players from these “libelous” trade rumors writers like Haggerty and oh yeah myself write. Cited in that same story are quotes from Marchand back in October, 2014 when he — without calling me out specifically — called for my job because I reported the Sharks and Bruins had trade discussions involving him and Sharks forward Patrick Marleau.
“There’s a lot of guys who like to call out. There’s a few that really like to jump on the bandwagon,” he said. “I did see a couple, people have brought up a few tweets and articles that came out that were just outrageous. We knew we were tight up against the cap, and it’s like, ‘Let’s trade Marchand for [Patrick] Marleau,’ and he’s a guy who makes $2 million more than me, and that’s going to fix the cap situation?
“I’d love to see some of these guys away from the rink and have a few words with them,” Marchand continued. “I’d love some of these guys to get fired, is what I’d love. I’d love for them to be in my position and tell them, all right you’re getting fired, because you’re doing a horrible job at actually getting real information. I’d love to go back through the tweets in the summer and see how many reporters’ tweets about who’s getting traded and the trades that were coming, how many of them were right? None of them.”
For the record, I had sources on both sides telling me this occurred and much like Marchand I questioned why the cap-strapped Bruins would make such a move. But I decided to go with it because I trusted these sources. Of course as Marchand pointed out, that and many of the trade rumors never happened, but such is the nature of the business. That’s why they’re rumors. Do we as reporters write them with total disregard for the feelings of the player or that player’s family and friends? I know I don’t and I’d like to believe many of my colleagues don’t. But guess what? These players are big boys and trade rumors are part of pro sports.
Yes, there’s no doubt they produce more clicks and buzz than your standard feature that praises the player. Last I checked we don’t work for the players or the teams and just as Marchand’s comments don’t offend me, trade rumors shouldn’t and don’t offend the majority of pro athletes. It’s a part of being a pro athlete, especially in today’s social media driven world.
Note: Marchand led the Bruins in goals scored last season with 24. Maybe I was used after all?
The point here is we as reporters are in this business to cover the players and the story not as Marchand put it be their “buddies” or cheer for them. We’re also not in this business to take shots at our colleagues because they got a scoop that got more hits than our’s or they’re more connected than us. But again I ask? Should the trade rumors stop altogether? Are they that offensive? Or is it more offensive to change a writer’s words and accuse them of libel and throwing bleep against the wall?
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