So What Just Happened?

The Subban negotiation and the state of sports reporting

PK Subban just signed a big fat, 8 year, 72 million dollar contract. It makes him the highest paid defenceman in the league. Well, by average value, Shea Weber’s circumvention deal pays him heavy up front.

So big sigh of relief for Habs fans right? We’ve got our superstars locked up long term and life is good in La Belle Provence.

While I’m psyched Subban is signed and glad we didn’t have to pay the ~12 million he definitely would have gotten as a UFA, I’m more interested in what the Subban negotiations say about the state of sports reporting in Canada.

That said, I am not a sports reporter. I am a dude who likes hockey and follows a bunch of sports reporters on twitter.

Canadians love hockey. We like hockey the way Americans like football. By that I mean we will tune in for news about it 12 months out of the year. So obviously the Subban arbitration was big news, especially when of the other 25 RFAs this summer, 23 were settled before arbitration. This is where first issue appears; nobody seems to have any idea how arbitration works.

In simplest terms, the player and his representation make an argument for why they are worth X dollar value; “when I skate, the ice turns to gold beneath my feet”, “I urinate blue Gatorade, saving us thousands in refreshment costs, “I am the demigod son of Zeus himself, blessed with a holy slapshot” yknow, that sort of thing.

Meanwhile, management makes an argument for why said player is worth Y dollar value (usually much less); “Your ligaments are made primarily of string cheese at this point”, “You didn’t chip in for pizza that one time and then you totally ate like 4 slices”, “your wrist shot and slap have the accuracy and power of the stream of a 95 year old man with prostate issues”

The arbitration ruling is typically a number between X and Y, decided by an impartial arbitrator, let me know if I’m moving too fast for anyone.

So when hundreds of journalists state that Subban’s representation and Canadiens Management are 2.75 million dollars apart (8 – 5.25, MATH) and speculate on what that means for the potential deal…

They are talking out their asses.

 Those numbers are initial bargaining positions, Bergevin did not believe Subban was only worth 5.25, that is where he chose to set his bargaining position for a potential arbitrated RFA contract.

All those journalists predicting doom because of the “almost 3 million dollar difference” were either A) woefully misinformed about how any part of this process works or B) bad journalists using clickbait tactics and I’m not really sure which one is worse.

While sports journalists not knowing how arbitration works is mildly distressing, what followed the Subban hearing was even more so.

After both parties left the hearing, the reports from everyone were that Subban felt personally offended by the proceedings and the relationship between the player and the team was potentially permanently damaged.

These were not wannabe hockey bloggers ranting from their parent’s basement (I’m in my Mom’s living room, its completely different) this was major media outlets; TSN, the Score, CBC and respected hockey “insiders” like Elliote Friedman and Bob Mackenzie.

They all, ALL stated how damaged the relationship was, that we should be prepared for Subban to play another 2 years and then go UFA. That was how bad it was, the sky was falling and Bergevin had continued the recent history of horrible GM moves in Montreal (McDonagh for Gomez still stings).

24 hours later and the insiders did a 180 and were reporting the terms of the deal half an hour or so before the team announced it as they’ve always done.

Okay so they got this one wrong (“super wrong!”) super wrong, yes, which is concerning.

Canadian sports journalism, especially with regards to hockey, is predicated on the Insider. These journalists that have knowledge we can only dream of, their unlimited access allows them to break these stories for our consumption.

Obviously we want these journalists to break these stories for us, but its not ALL we want; ideally we the stories broken to be true, and for the people reporting on these stories to know what they are talking about. Elliote Friedman wrote a 700 word blog post about the damage done to this relationship and 16 hours later is reporting the terms like he didn’t just predict doom for the Canadiens.

You’ll always gain more respect for being right than being first, here’s hoping at the next negotiation a few reporters remember that.

But again, I’m no sports reporter.

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