At the good ol' gossip game

ERIN NICKS

, Last Updated: 10:40 AM ET

Gossip. Lighter fare. Off-ice tidbits. Whatever you want to call it, it generally refers to any information pertaining to the NHL or one of its players that doesn't make reference to a game, stats or any so-called "traditional" news.

If you're to believe some fans, it's the lowest form of reporting the media could ever engage in. The biggest argument is that it's not "sports-related" if it doesn't involve on-ice activity.

These fans purse their lips, stick up their noses and write off any information that doesn't pertain to a game as tabloid-esque.

Now to be fair, there is a large amount of fluff that's employed simply to sell the news, and usually it involves a young, attractive woman on the arm of a recognizable NHL player (such as Elisha Cuthbert and the Rangers' Sean Avery or Hilary Duff and ex-Senator Mike Combrie, and so on and so on).

CONTRADICTION

This usually leads the fans to pepper said media outlet with vitriol and proclamations of rag imitation, in the manner of US Weekly or similar.

Frankly, I can't help but note the hilarity and hypocrisy of such outrage considering a) no one is being forced to read/view these stories and b) people have complained about the dry nature of the NHL for eons, particularly when it involves cliched player interviews that ironically feature little in the way of substance or insight.

Here's the reality: Despite Canada's fervour for the NHL, very little outside information about a player's off-ice life ever sees the light of day in the mainstream media, unless it's presented in a highly sanitized version.

Undoubtedly league traditionalists and myopic observers prefer it this way.

It helps to preserve the NHL's "good guy" image of players from small towns with good families who were raised proper. Regardless of the perception, the truth is some players do engage in activities or behaviour that is hardly pedestal-worthy.

Given the society we currently live in, some of these so-called gossipy bits are making the rounds while completely bypassing traditional media. All one needs is a camera phone, a YouTube account, a blog and the serendipity of being in the right place at the right time.

If Player X is spotted tying one on at a bar the night before a game and plays poorly, the excuse given is usually, "I was just having a hard time picking my spots."

You can take the comment at face value, or if available, sneak a peek at some evidence a web-savvy bystander may have captured.

If substantiated, off-ice information can serve as a missing piece of the puzzle. This is particularly helpful when everyone is forced to decipher the roundabout dialect used by all franchises whenever the media or fans are present. A sudden trade occurring that few people expected, or someone being signed to a longer or shorter contract than anticipated?

There's always more to the story. Contrary to popular belief, the majority of insider information isn't coming out of idle chitchat to a reporter in the dressing room.

All players reserve the right to privacy and to keep certain aspects of their lives out of the public eye.

That being said, they are known figures and their on- and off-ice actions will be witnessed and scrutinized to the smallest detail, especially if they play for a Canadian team.

It's their decision on how to handle themselves in these situations, and some make wiser choices than others.

So does it really matter if your favourite player gets caught in a liplock with the Hollywood Starlet du Jour, is a known party animal or is tied up in an ugly divorce?

It might. The next time said player is in the penthouse or doghouse, just remember there's always more to a tale than the rehearsed responses given -- which could suddenly make that "gossip" far more relevant than you originally thought.


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