The lowdown


So, some Bozo blogger thinks Darren Dreger of TSN might be pulling NHL trade rumours out of his ass and making things up, eh?

Dreger’s inquisitor on a website known as Kings Kool-Aid calls himself “qwisp,” which may or may not be a version of his real name. That doesn’t matter, even though the thought of somebody who might be tapping while using a fake name calling out Dreger rings just a tad goofy.

It’s a witty bit of interpretive scrawl by qwisp, but it goes to show how little this person knows about the challenges facing MSM types like Dreger, who earn their living by gathering information, and the rules of the insider game as they pertain to protecting sources.

The point being pushed by qwisp is Dreger’s item on Vincent Lecavalier and possible interest in him by the Los Angeles Kings is vague and written in a flimsy enough way it could be nothing more than the product of a fertile mind on a slow news day.

Vague and flimsy? Yes. Intentionally so. The product of a fertile mind? Not a chance. What, did Dreger issue an E-3 with this?


Whether it’s a ridiculously connected guy like Dreger or TSN running mate Bob McKenzie or those of us further down the information gathering food chain in the MSM, there are tried-and-true ways of protecting sources and keeping the information pipeline open.

Many of those tricks of the trade — not attributing comments, using unnamed sources and even employing good old-fashioned mis-direction to protect somebody who has given you the drop on something — fly in the face of what old-school types like me learned when getting into the business. But the business has changed. The demand for immediate information is greater than it’s ever been. People want the goods now. If you’re getting your dope from the morning paper, you’re late. You either deliver or you don’t. On top of that, people love rumours. They eat up speculation.

While that opens the door for any kook or clown with a blog template to float all kinds of unsubstantiated rumours, pass off gossip as fact and flat-out make things up, that’s not the case with Dreger. Granted, it can sound that way — “Well, where’s the quote from the GM or the player in question?” — but disguising the fact somebody spilled the beans is essential in making sure they keep talking to you down the road.


Dreger doesn’t need me talking for him, so I won’t, but here’s some of the ways I’ve protected sources. Let’s go on the premise GM X has told me he’s interested in trading Player X because he wants too much money.

— You can be vague, as Dreger was with the Lecavalier item: “The Edmonton Oilers will likely be listening to offers for Player X at the trade deadline and there could be six teams interested, including the Los Angeles Kings . . .”

— You can say it yourself without attribution: “The Edmonton Oilers are looking to trade Player X at the trade deadline . . .”

— You can use an unnamed source: “A source close to the Edmonton Oilers says the team is considering trading Player X because he wants too much money . . .”

— You can ask the question: “Are the Edmonton Oilers contemplating trading Player X at the trade deadline because he wants too much money?” Or, “What’s this I hear about Player X wanting $20 million over four years from the Oilers?”

No matter which of the four ways you frame it, you can follow up by saying, “When asked to confirm the possibility Player X might be traded, GM X declined comment,” or “GM X laughed off suggestions Player X might be traded and said, “We’re not shopping Player X.”

Of course, shopping Player X means actively communicating with other GMs looking for offers, as opposed to being willing to trade Player X if his salary demands don’t change. In that sense, GM X isn’t lying.


The problem is, people with no contacts and no inside information can play loose with all of the above and toss as much stuff against the wall as they want in the hope some will stick.

Not because they’re protecting sources, but because they don’t have one real shred of information. You’ve read it. I’ve read it. There’s 100 screens of the stuff out there on any given day. There’s always some Bozo making stuff up. This qwisp is suggesting maybe Dreger fits in that long-shoed group. I think not. I know not.

For information junkies trying to separate intentional mis-direction or vagueness employed by a reporter to protect a source from bogus rumours with no factual basis, it’s difficult to know what to put much stock in.

In the end, it comes down to credibility. Who wrote it or said it? What’s their record on getting it first and getting it right? How connected are they? Who do they answer to if what they write or say is absolute fantasy?

Whether it’s a MSM guy like Dreger or some Bozo blogger, the same questions should apply.

–Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on TEAM 1260.

  • lj

    This guy's gonna be so excited about all of the hits…

    As far as what you're saying goes, I'm not really a rumour guy, so I don't care too much, but it strikes me that doing things this way a) opens you guys up to being used by team sources and b) leads to you getting lumped in with the Garriochs of the world. Darren Dreger may well have sources coming out his wazoo – I have a hell of a time knowing that from reading his copy. I have no way of knowing that he doesn't go "Man, slow day…maybe I'll stretch something I heardto make it sound like more than it is."

    Not Dreger's fault necessarily; sounds like that's the game. I'm not that sympathetic that he (and others like him) occasionally have to suffer through people saying that they're full of it or making stuff up. If you want to write this sort of fluffy stuff with no discernible substance or matter, you can't really complain when people point out how devoid of substance it appears to be.

  • lj

    @ Tyler:
    Fair enough, but it comes down to credibility and who you believe.
    I can tell you this, Dreger isn't getting paid what he's getting paid to go 1-for-75 on the trade front. He doesn't make stuff up.

    Aside from losing credibility with readers and listeners if he's seen as a guesser and rumour-monger, there's no way Dreger gets the info he does from GMs, agents etc if he's perceived as somebody who puts more value in a quick-hit big rumour he knows isn't true than something based in fact.

  • lj

    Dreger: Sources close to Brownlee tell me he is possibly a nine year old girl. It is believed that he may reveal this at some future point. 🙂


    On a serious note, I see your point about credibility and Dreger has it. But isn't Dreger hurting his credibility by writing such a crappy piece, using weasel words like 'possibly' and 'speculation continues that.' I mean, when your read this closely it suggests Dreger doesn't even have a source about these trade talks, but when you read it quickly it sounds like he's doing something more than speculating. Is that what he's supposed to do: make it sound like he has something to report, when he doesn't, while using language like a lawyer so that nothing he says can be proved wrong?

    I'm a Dreger fan, but this ain't his finest hour. (Though I did like the stuff about Smith. Why didn't he just write that? It was interesting.)

    BTW, I thought it was important for journalists to clearly state whether they were reporting specific anonymous sources or mere second hand rumors. Are you suggesting otherwise?

  • lj

    @ Robin Brownlee:

    'You can ask the question: “Are the Edmonton Oilers contemplating trading Player X at the trade deadline because he wants too much money?” Or, “What’s this I hear about Player X wanting $20 million over four years from the Oilers?”'

    Please don't tell me this whole article is a clever way of saying that Grebeshkov is on his way out of town…

  • lj

    It's a tough spot. You want to report the information but you want to be able to go back to the well.

    It's no wonder that team guys who complain about the media have so many problems, not enough mutual trust.

  • lj

    @ Bozo:
    If you call them "weasel" words then you're missing the point. There's a reason for being vague or using weak language — it's done to protect the source.
    Even if you don't quote somebody, there are instances when being very firm or specific about the details of a trade discussion or contract negotiation will point to the source. That's just as bad as naming him.

    And, yes, it is important to make distinctions between reporting what you know, what you think and simply passing on a rumour you've heard. Some people frown on the latter, even when you make it clear it's only a rumour.

    The other thing to keep in mind is this: you can't simply assume a reporter was full of it when a trade possibility he's mentioned doesn't come to fruition. GMs weigh and discount many trade offers for every one they actually complete. Some trades I thought were locks fell apart at the last minute. That doesn't mean they weren't on the table.

    It's a fine line — people want to know about what's going to happen before it actually happens. Until a deal is signed, sealed and deilvered, it's technically only speculation. You as readers and consumers of information have to decide who is delivering the best information they have and who is content to pass on an endless string of unsubstantiated rumours hoping they're right once in awhile.

  • lj

    Why are we giving that clown the honour of reading his anonymous hate blast and bringing attention to it? Was Dreger somehow insulted by that crap piece? I doubt it. An ANONYMOUS blogger complaining about journalistic integrity… ok… whatever. That's like me complaining about professional hockey play- uh, nevermind.

    Why can't the playoffs be done so we can have some Oilers news? I feel like that David After The Dentist kid…

    "Is this going to be fowever? ….ugh……"

  • lj

    It's not as if other journalists outside of the Sports Page dont do this all the time. Investigative journalists always use confidential sources. It's how most major stories are broken. This isnt a university research paper complete with bibliography. It's breaking news. I agree it sounds wishy washy, but Dreger is staking his credibility with every story he does for TSN. He cant afford to burn bridges because he cant hide behind his anonymity (Eklund et al.). If Dreger names all of his sources after every piece he does then he wont have any sources, and shortly after he wont be working at TSN. Instead, he will be working at some 2nd rate organization like The Score or the CBC.

  • lj

    Fair point.

    But, if no trade like this one happens and we never get confirmation that these talks happened, does Dreger's credibility take a hit? Or should we say, "Oh he just said there was a rumour that it probably might, maybe happen, or something.' How are we supposed to judge this credibility you're talking about if we can never know when or if Dreger's making stuff up?

    All I'm saying is, not naming your sources is one thing but making a claim that's so wishy washy that it could never be shown to be wrong is bad form. It makes Dreger look like he's guilty even if he isn't. And it makes me a little more wary of Dreger than I was before.

    "Make a claim and stand by it." I learned that from someguy who used to write in the papers. He was named Brownlaw, or Brownlue, or something like that.

  • lj

    Bozo wrote:

    How are we supposed to judge this credibility you’re talking about if we can never know when or if Dreger’s making stuff up?

    If you ever think Dreger is making something up then he doesn't have credibility. Believe me or not, Dreger does not make things up. You either trust a writer/commentator or you don't.

  • lj

    I got to know a NHL scout this year so I often picked his brain on how the business works. I asked him if any of these rumours we always hear are true. He said, oh yeah,this business is built on friendships and guys like McKenzie and Dreger are completely tied in. He said every rumour those guys throw out has been bantered around by GM's. He said GM's are talking to each other all the time and making a few offers a week. This scout sees about 4 games a week with the sole intent of giving his GM feedback on a player should a rival GM make an offer. So, if Dreger gets paid on one rumour in 75 coming to fruition doesn't sound so bad when you consider how many of these conversations and trade possibilities actually take place.

  • lj

    @ BigE57:
    He straddles the line between the two. He's got lots of sources in the Toronto area and is well connected through Newport Sports, the big agent outfit run by Don Meehan and Pat Morris.

  • lj

    BigE57 wrote:

    So, where does Al Strachan fall in the realm of well connected media and rumor mongers?

    Sometimes I think Strachan is a major Douche, but he was bang on when he reported that Pronger wanted out of E-town.