There probably has never been a better time to be a sports fan. Information today is as abundant as ever and players are more accessible than they ever have been. A large amount of credit for that goes to Twitter, the social media driving force where news breaks as fast as it takes somebody to type 140 characters or less.
The modern media -- i.e. not your standard newspaper/television/radio personalities -- has seen the birth of more great and intelligent media voices that might otherwise not have had an opportunity. It has also led to a proliferation of more insiders. When push comes to shove people crave the news and there are more and more people breaking it these days.
The other side of that equation is that it has also brought about an increase in additional "insiders." For every trusted reporter there are as many or more who appear sometimes to take an idea off HFBoards.com and throw it against the wall. Once in a while it sticks and skeptics become converts. A challenge for some can be distinguishing between the two.
It seems every year around two moments on the hockey calendar -- the trade deadline and the start of free agency -- there are no shortage of warnings put out to be wary of the sources before reports such as Sidney Crosby agreeing to a long-term extension with the Canadiens (obviously hypothetical) spread like wildfire. It's a public-service announcement to try and prevent mass hysteria before it spirals out of control, most often coming from the less traditional outlets.
Or in this case from player agent Allan Walsh.
"They're a bunch of frauds. We're talking about 16-year-old kids playing on their mommy and daddy's computers pretending to be insiders," Walsh said. "They go all over the Internet reading a lot of the conjecture from respected media and then they take that conjecture, throw it out there, claim they own it from sources and then talk about how they were right in this situation and how they were right in this situation to prove ... they're constantly trying to convince you they actually know what they're talking about."
It wasn't long ago that Walsh found himself in a back-and-forth with perhaps the most notorious of these insiders who goes by the Twitter handle of @HockeyyInsiderr. Here is the account's description:
Worked for 4 NHL teams. Many contacts within the league. Remain anonymous. Trade breaker. Hockeyy_Insiderr@hotmail.com
"There's a certain amount of people out there who still follow these fraudulent, so-called insiders and give them credit," Walsh continued.
"Especially when people are not willing to make their identities known, you know right off the bat they're frauds. You know that. There's no journalistic ethics. Again, you're dealing with 16-year-old kids hiding behind a Twitter account.
"People want access to inside information. The bottom line is thought processes of NHL teams are not going to end up in the public domain. They are only going to end up in the public domain as much as teams want the thought processes to be in the public domain. So the idea that a GM is doling out inside strategic information to people who become sources for these fake insider accounts is laughable. When you think about it, it's really non-sensical."
By now you probably get the message.
Continuing to reference the account of @HockeyyInsiderr, it has more than 23,000 followers. To get a taste here is a sampling of some tweets from earlier this month, zooming in on the night before Zach Parise and Ryan Suter signed with the Wild.
Sources say Suter to #RedWings will be announced after Parise announces his decision. Contract (minor) details still being arranged.— Hockeyy Insiderr (@HockeyyInsiderr) July 4, 2012
Then you have the stick-on-the-wall kind like this one coming before Jaromir Jagr signed with the Dallas Stars.
Rumor update: #DallasStars interested in Jagr. Two parties had a talk this morning. More negotiations coming.— Hockeyy Insiderr (@HockeyyInsiderr) July 3, 2012
Hit and miss? Sure are. You can go up and down the account for yourself, perusing the numerous tweets and draw your own conclusions.
But in the interest of fairness CBSSports.com reached out to the anonymous account's creator and he/she (hey, you never know) said that up-and-down nature is par for any news-breaker's course.
"Now it is true that not all of my rumors come to fruition. But that's normal," the anonymous tweeter wrote in an email. "Because I don't only report done deals, I report all rumors that I hear from sources with NHL connections. NHL is a rapidly changing environment and discussions change and evolve in the blink of an eye. If you are not willing to accept this, you should not follow me.
"I can provide a file with more than 15 stories I have broken before anyone else ... since July 1st! It is obvious I have sources and even my harshest critics can realize this. So being called a fraud is a bit harsh to say the least."
The anonymous writer continued.
"Many times after I tweet a rumor I see members of the mainstream media take over that rumor and act as if it's their own info," he/she wrote. "Especially for the done deals I report. But when a rumor I report does not come to fruition (such as the Parise to Pens rumor), there are numerous members of the mainstream media that bash me on Twitter (Dreger/Russo/Mirtle to name just a few but there were many more). You can either ignore me when I'm right and wrong or acknowledge me when I'm right and wrong. But ignoring when I'm right and bashing when I'm wrong is simply unethical."
Why do I present these two sides to you? Well besides the strength of the quotes from two people involved in this whole world of news-breaking is that it's incredibly interesting. At least to me. It's the evolution -- or some say devolution -- of the news gathering/sharing as we know it.
Take this story from Greg Caggiano as an example. He was admittedly bored a few weeks ago and tweeted that Rick Nash had been traded to the Rangers. He wanted to see how the Twitterverse would react? The response? A ton of retweets and a thousand or so new followers by morning.
Also, I don't see this as a matter of "media covering media" or anything like that. Again, Twitter has transformed the way fans follow sports -- for those fans that are on Twitter, that is. Now fans are able to get the information straight from the horse's mouth and nowadays there are a lot of different horses talking (metaphorically of course, Mr. Ed isn't on Twitter as far as I know).
It's a brave new world.