Heard Paul Ranger and the Toronto Marlies have a one year deal in place, wont be announced til later this month.
— Dan Shrader (@ShraderD) August 18, 2012
Now, I have complete faith in the source of the information considering their proximity to the parties involved, so I went with it on Twitter, knowing full well that things can change, or worse yet, the whole bit just wasn't happening period. It was an odd moment; knowing that I (likely) broke some news, but also having this terrifying knot in my stomach fearing the worst; in the age of instantaneous stories and reports, they travel far and fast (especially in regards to the hockey-crazed market of Toronto.)
Not to make myself into something important, but there was the risk that whatever reputation I have, as a hockey writer, could be completely torpedoed. I felt accountable.
As any ardent hockey fan can attest, the possibility of watching your favorite team make transactions to get better is exciting, whether it be getting that last piece for a deep playoff run, or to sell off in order to restock, reload, or in the case of Columbus, perpetually rebuild. Watercooler talk can always revolve around pie in the sky scenarios, but in the end it is about wanting to see your team improve. The diligent digging of beat writers and journalists have somehow evolved into a cottage industry of "insiders"; guys who instead of covering a team, cover the NHL and the moving and shaking that comes along with it by way of connections and in-roads- the proverbial "sources."
We, as hockey fans in the digital age (which has really exploded since the last lockout), have not just embraced the "insider" as a viable outlet of classified information, but have come to live and die with every blog post and tweet that comes from them. Like junkies jonesing for a fix, we check out certain sites numerous times a day, or continually eyeball the twitter accounts of the Bob McKenzies, The Darren Dregers, The Mike Russos, et al. (All of whom do fantastic work, and should remain the go-to guys for such information.)
Such as the nature of such things, where notoriety springs forth- one is left to sift through the wheat and chaff, categorizing those who are of the legitimate ilk, and those who are, well, court jesters at best. Yet both populations can be found in the Twitter timelines of many hockey fans. First it was Eklund, the rumor-mongering pioneer who came to prominence around the last CBA kerfuffle with his site Hockey Buzz. Now its HockeyyInsiderr, who has become everyone's favorite punching bag, and rightfully so- although we, as fans in general, should share some accountability for giving this clown more clout than he deserves.
But there is something about wanting that notoriety for being "in the know"- that you know something the next person doesn't. You got access to classified or privy info, and as a hockey fan, we know there is more than what is said in pressers, statements, or in the public eye. We want to know what they know.
So we seek those out who know; or who we think may know.
In the days following the Ranger to Marlies tweet, I saw it all over the internet, besides being manifested as retweets. Dozens and dozens of people began to follow me on Twitter, including noted journalists like James Mirtle and Brian Metzer- as if I, an idiot with a picture of Chevy Chase's character in Caddyshack as a profile picture on his Twitter, has access to inside information. Yet I saw I was being categorized as a "news breaker" or "insider" on some people's lists.
The quest for knowledge is never a bad thing; as much as we want to see our team win on the ice, there is also a curiosity about the mechanics which take place behind the closed door of hockey ops; the phone calls, the exchange of texts, the clandestine meetings in the bowels of empty arenas pre-game. It is up to us though, in the age of the "hockey insider", to be diligent about sorting through the ever-increasing array of imposters and frauds, no matter how entertaining they may be.
You know, like the ones with Chevy Chase avatars who use their Twitter like its open mic night at The Comedy Cellar.