September 11, 2009
As a sportswriter, your heart goes out to ESPN's John Buccigross this morning. He stuck his neck out on a major story yesterday, reporting that the Ottawa Senators had finally traded Dany Heatley(notes) to the San Jose Sharks in a deal that allegedly sent Patrick Marleau(notes) to the Los Angeles Kings and Alexander Frolov(notes) and Jarret Stoll(notes) to the Senators. It was the very deal earlier described in an Ottawa Sun rumors report on Heatley, and ESPN's confirmation spread like herpes around the hockey world last night.
Ottawa GM Bryan Murray was the first to deny it, and Sharks GM Doug Wilson soon followed within the body of the ESPN report, strongly labeling the scoop as "an absolute fabrication." Rich Hammond of the LA Daily News was told by Kings GM Dean Lombardi that the report was "complete bull." Then the dominos began to fall: TSN's Bob McKenzie debunked it and TSN's Darren Dreger refuted it. The San Jose Mercury News and Los Angeles Times denied it. Although Malkin To The Kings reported that the Sens and Sharks were chatting, even Bruce Garrioch called the report premature at best.
So what the hell happened? Buccigross was a guest on Gabriel Morency's "Sports Rage" Sirius Satellite Radio show late last night, and revealed the process that led to ESPN breaking the Heatley story. The audio (via Leahy) is here, and the interview is about three-quarters into the podcast. (WARNING: The language on the show is NSFW, very, very profane and adults only. Can't stress that enough, even if it's music to our ears.) Here's Bucci, when asked if a trade was actually done:
"Right now, obviously, nothing is officially done or it would have been announced by all parties. What I heard earlier tonight was that it was a three-team trade. First I had heard it was going to be tonight or tomorrow. Obviously they want to move him before training camp. So I sniffed around and my best source, who's been perfect for me, mentioned he got an email from a front office personnel member. He forwarded me the email, and it's a pretty significant name (laughs) in the NHL, and I thought 'Boy, I would have gone on it just with my initial source, because he's been great for me.' Then he showed me this email, and it was completely supporting it.
"So I was surprised when it hasn't come through tonight. Now, things are complicated, there could be other parts to it, but I still believe he will be moved. But it appears, as I was told, is not going to happen tonight anyway."
Buccigross later said that he was comfortable with the story because "it made a lot of sense in a lot of ways," as far as what the teams need. He also said he could see conditions shifting this deal into one directly between Ottawa and Los Angeles.
There's smoke here, for sure, even if ESPN's report has become a hockey fan piñata in the last 24 hours. Getting a story of this magnitude wrong is devastating, but what's Buccigross's real sin here: Being the last of 10,000 people to erroneously report Heatley had been traded this summer?