Starting just after the Radim Vrbata trade and climaxing in the immediate aftermath of the Vaclav Prospal buyout, I've been reintroduced to just why fans turn to unsourced speculation about player movement. I've been reintroduced to just why people turn to a less-than-three-percent-accuracy rumor monger.
Traditional media, Google News, blogs and blog aggregators, social networking, Twitter... There are so many means to be informed and get news, but seldom there still is silence on a subject matter you're keenly interested in. All those sources of verifiable information, but not what you're looking for...
And that is exactly the kind of information vacuum that built an Internet star -- making up the chatter that the insiders supposedly weren't telling people.
Even before the Prospal buyout, the Lightning faithful were pretty set on the idea of the Bolts acquiring through free agency or trade a top-six forward. Though Vincent Lecavalier was thought to have a lock for his left-wingman in Prospal, fans such as myself wanted to get a more dynamic wing to improve upon what Prospal brought to the table.
The what-if's on unrestricted free agent Alex Tanguay have been out there for a while. Damian Cristodero shot down the idea with some then-facts earlier on in the free agency period, Jon Jordan speculated on how great the addition of Tanguay would be. WB Philip has talked Tanguay and Petr Sykora as possible pickups. Heck, from just before free agency began I stated in Raw Charge's free agency primer that in a wishful-thinking scenario, Tanguay would be chased
But the one constant with all these stories is not just the subject. It's the fact this is mostly opinion and wishful thinking. Besides Cristodero's skepticism weeks back (which he's turned into Tanguay-on-Bolts-radar speculation) there is no news about any type of contact between the team and Tanguay's representatives. There are no new demand stories about what's being asked for by Tanguay's camp, there are no factual reports on how close or far apart the suitors and Tanguay are on a contract.
All those information sources and no news. Water, water, everywhere but not a drop to drink...
And that is exactly the void that was filled by Dwayne "Eklund" Klessel, helping him to build a reputation and a huge web following.
Lets step back a moment -- a few paces back for that matter -- to the fall of 2004. Tampa Bay had secured Lord Stanley's Cup in June and the Collective bargaining Agreement expired on September 15th, 2004. There was more ill will and barbs traded between the Players Association and Gary Bettman (the owners were mostly silent as a show of solidarity) playing out through the press than anything for several weeks on end. The most news you could get on the league was that no talks were planned and which NHL player was going to jump to Russia next.
Enter Dwayne Klessel.
While the mainstream media had nothing to report; while Lyle "Spector" Richardson showed as much on rehashing headlines on his web site; while idle bloggers (such as James Mirtle, Eric McErlain, Tom Benjamin, Mike Chen, myself, and others) tried to keep readers occupied with different subjects on our respective blogs, Dwayne Klessel started feeding a need that was not being met by the mainstream media or the blogosphere.
Claiming inside information that no one else was reporting regarding possible post-lockout transactions, CBA negotiations, about how close the feuding sides were and how imminent the end of the lockout was, Klessel built a wide following by meeting the idle hockey fan's need-to-know.
Of course, the truth was that nothing reported during those first few months of "Eklund's" career had any truth behind it. It was so inaccurate, he ended up deleting his archives in order to hide the fact. The need of information by the public, where none existed, was met though. His readership exploded through his idle-speculation-reported-as-fact.
And he's carried that reputation -- supposedly having information, however inaccurate -- and built a career from it. Never mind the less-than-three-percent accuracy... Klessel's word is followed by a large swath of hockey fans thirsting for wild and volatile information that just isn't being reported anywhere. What agents are supposedly saying, what the "insiders" haven't shared with the public.
Filling a need is not a crime. Being used by the mainstream media (on TV, in print, on the radio) and greater internet community as a reliable news source however, is.
This all brings me back to Alex Tanguay and pertains to other free agents that are out there right now. Where there truly is no movement (or any negotiations are being kept silent), the idle-speculation, filling-the-need Dwayne Klessel "reported" that Tanguay signed with the Florida Panthers (with 5 sources -- (e5) -- to back him up!) on July 16th. His latest report is the generalized "Tanguay closer to signing today (July 29th) than ever before" (accurate because, by default, "today" is closer than the previous day).
There will always be a market for idle speculation like what Klessel provides at Hockey Buzz -- in sports, in the entertainment field, in politics, and in the tech world. They all fill a need for the news you (the reader) want to hear about that the mainstream media is not delving into for whatever reason (a lack of refutable sources, a lack of facts, or just a lack of truth) on one subject or another. Innuendo and hearsay is better than silence on a news subject dear to your heart.
Klessel's antics are more benign when taken for what they are: nonsense filling a void the media has created. It's ridiculous and downright fraudulent, however, when it's seen as irrefutable fact by fans as well as members of the mainstream media.
Bolt fans want to know about what's going on with the Lightning's quest for a top-six forward... Just do us all a favor and speculate with fellow fans without reporting news from sources of ill-repute as if it were gospel.