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Jarome Iginla To Dallas: The Anatomy Of An Internet Rumor

I have a confession to make: I hate trade rumors.

I realize that in the world of online sports blogs and sometimes journalism, trade rumors are the bread and butter of what can really drive traffic sky high. In the weeks leading up to the NHL trade deadline, you're going to see countless headlines about possible trades or "Top Ten Destinations For So-and-So" -- all geared to drive traffic to their speculative stories.

We've seen it here on Defending Big D, when anything mentioning a Brad Richards rumor would get incredible traffic. For several reasons, sports fans love the speculation that free agency and trade rumors bring; it sparks intense debate and it's a fun way to think about what a team might be like when changes are made. Avoiding rumors are impossible and we do our best to speculate as little as possible when they involve the Stars -- especially since 95% of the time these rumors are baseless.

What happened over the weekend, however, was certainly interesting in the way that a few speculative notes in an article in Canada became a trade rumor that spread like wildfire. It's the internet version of the "telephone" game and it's a great study of how the story changes each time it's told -- especially when the facts are skewed, however slightly, to get the most reaction out of the target audience.

That being said, let's examine how a simple note about Jarome Iginla's connection to Tom Gaglardi turned into a full-blown internet rumor...

Over the weekend, Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun penned an article titled "Stars align for Iginla trade", in which he wrote the following:

Tom Gaglardi, 43, a Vancouver-based businessman who finally realized his dream of owning an NHL team when he officially took over the Dallas Stars last week, could get aggressive in trying to get the club back on the hockey map.

While Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla would have to agree to waive his no-movement clause, don't be surprised if the Stars show interest in trying to pry the 34-year-old winger back to Dallas, the team that drafted him in 1995.

No sources, no mention of a source, there's not even a mention that he "got the feeling" from Dallas. Instead, this is pure speculation and connect-the-dots between an NHL star that is on the ropes in Calgary and an owner that could be looking to spend some money with his new team.

Of all the articles that Garrioch has written over the years, this might actually be one of his more even-keeled attempts. I actually see nothing wrong with what he wrote and the connection is undeniable: Iginla is a business partner with Gaglardi, who now owns a team that could use a "wow" factor of an addition. The article didn't even try to attempt to say the trade was in the works, or that the Stars are actually interested -- all it said was "don't be surprised" because of the connections between Stars owner and Iginla.

A quick side-note: Jarome Iginla has a full no-movement clause and has complete control over which team he would accept a trade to. With Calgary continuing to struggle (Iginla has played in just 54 postseason games) there's endless speculation that the Flames could consider trading their top player for a healthy return. Iginla is not the 50-goal scorer he once was but he's still a heck of an offensive threat and a leader on the ice and I doubt there are many teams in the NHL that wouldn't want him.

I have no idea if the Stars would want him or not and I shudder to think of what they'd have to give up. Like Brad Richards last year, the circumstances surrounding any potential trade with Iginla are extremely convoluted and any actual trade would not come quickly.

Back to the story at hand, however.

What happened after Garrioch published the aforementioned article was near-instantaneous. Whether fans failed to truly read what he was trying to say or read only what they wanted to, the rumors that the Stars were interested in trading for Iginla spread like wildfire on message boards and on Twitter. It was mentioned several times on Defending Big D, although certainly not as extensively.

In one fell swoop, we went from a writer surmising and making some obvious connections surrounding a player that might get traded to a full-blown rumor that one was in the works. 

Observe: The Sporting News, what I felt to have once been a legitimate news source, had an article on Sunday -- a day after the Ottawa Sun article -- that used the Garrioch report and turned it into something completely different. 

The Ottawa Sun, along with several other media outlets, is reporting a deal to send the Flames' captain to Dallas could be in the works, and soon. New Stars owner Tom Gaglardi is ready to make an aggressive trade to pump some life into his team, and this could be the answer.

The term "could be in the works" is once again pure speculation and not at all what Garrioch wrote in his article. Yet it has changed the way the "rumor" is being reported from fan to fan and suddenly an innocent connection made between Gaglardi and Iginla has turned into a report that the Stars are actively looking to trade for Iginla. What I find interesting is that when the Sporting News mentions "several other media outlets", they're essentially referring to other articles that quote the Garrioch speculation.

What's most frustrating is that even the Dallas Morning News picked up on it and "reported" it in a very similar fashion to that of the Sporting News, in an article titled "Could Stars be looking to add Calgary's Jarome Iginla?"

Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun feels that the Stars will likely look to trade for the 34-year-old winger who was originally drafted by Dallas in 1995. For a transaction to happen, Iginla would have to agree to waive his no-movement clause, but Garrioch doesn't think that will be a problem.

It's all very carefully worded and it's all designed to build upon the rumor that the Stars are actively seeking a trade.

There have been other reports out there and what is really fueling the fire are sources like the ESPN Rumor Mill and HockeyBuzz that feed on this stuff, turning it around and making a speculative question turn into a definitive statement. It's the business of the internet sports rumor and it's never going to stop; what's interesting in this case is that we had the joy of actively watching the rumor grow from the moment Garrioch's article was published.


Now, is it possible that the Stars are looking into what it would take to trade for Iginla? Of course it is and in fact I would hope that Gaglardi and Nieuwendyk would kick the tires on such a deal and see what the price would be. Iginla is a player that not only would help the Stars scoring issues but also provide the "wow" factor that many fans have been looking for from the moment Gaglardi purchased the team.

The problem with such a trade, as always, is what the price would be. For the Flames to justify to their fans that trading Iginla is the right move, you'd have to think they would want something significant back in return. The Stars have become dedicated to building this team from within and have accumulated a number of promising young talents and I doubt that Nieuwendyk would be willing to mortgage the future for a 34-year old forward.

Would Jarome Iginla help the Dallas Stars this season? Of course. But he would certainly not be the key to a bright future for this team past next season. He's also set to earn $7 million this season and next before becoming a free agent in 2013 at the age of 36.

The Stars are likely interested in making that "wow" trade but the player and the price must be perfect. Trading for Iginla would be something only for the present -- when this is a team being built for the future.