Trade deadline hockey's Election Night
The people who work on the "news side" of the newspaper business are rarely excitable folks. About two lifetimes ago, when I worked in the newspaper business, the only time I can recall straight news reporters getting excited was on Election Night.
That Tuesday in November was like the Super Bowl and Christmas all wrapped up into one day. These normally cynical people were like giddy school children and people that you'd never seen in the newsroom would suddenly appear. They'd bring in food, phones would ring off the hook and suddenly the normally quiet newsroom would resemble the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. The sports guys would snicker and complain that their desks were being taken over by news geeks, but we got out of the way knowing that this happened only once a year.
Well, the Trade Deadline is essentially Election Night for hockey fans and certainly us here at NHL.com.
We've got a dedicated and experienced staff of old newspaper guys in myself, Phil Coffey and John McGourty (we'll also be welcoming back Shawn Roarke as a Senior Writer on Trade Deadline Day, by the way). We're old newshounds and that means we suffer from the instinctual urge to break news ("Hey Honey, bad news: Cat coughed up a furball.") But once you decide to work for a League website, well, a set of complicated issues factor in to the point where we must check our editorial instincts at the door.
Every Trade Deadline Day we receive e-mails from fans asking us why NHL.com isn't announcing trades as quickly as some other sites. The answer to that question is complex, but to sum it up neatly: Unless the trade is posted on NHL.com, it's just a rumor.
Think that statement's just bravado? Ah ... let me tell you about the process of consummating a trade.
After the two general managers shake hands and hang up the phone, they notify the League and schedule a "trade call". The trade call is where a deal -- probably one that's been leaked and already reported to the public -- can either be consummated or fall apart. This is why we say that nothing is official until we post it.
A person from the Hockey Operations department will get on the call with both parties and walk through all the details of the deal. They will look at the financials, including salary cap implications and player contracts. Some of that includes looking at details like bonus payments. These are potential land mines that could lead to one party backing off. While it doesn't happen very often -- because most GMs do their homework and are forthright with their colleagues -- there have been deals that did not make it beyond the trade call because a bonus or some other issue turned up that was not previously known by one or both of the parties.
From the player's perspective, imagine you've heard on the radio that you've been traded -- for better or worse -- but you find out that the deal fell apart. How would you feel? Suppose the trade was a shock to the player? A whole set of issues crop up.
NHL.com, being the official website of the National Hockey League, strives to deliver you accurate information. Remember the line from the movie Slap Shot: "Dickie Dunn wrote this, it has to be true." If you see it on NHL.com, you would expect it to be official, right?
On Trade Deadline Day, we'll tell you who's reporting the rumored deals. And when we move the deal over to the official column, you'll know that the trade call has been made and the deal is done for good.