This, my friends, is where my business gets tricky, and I wanted to share it with you so you might provide me - and us - with some valuable insight into what you want from this blog and our newspaper.
Sometimes, another media outlet publishes or broadcasts a report that is clearly off-base and speculative at best, but is sensational. It causes lots of conversation and water cooler talk.
Is it our job to follow up on that story? To dispute it? To prove it right or wrong? To ignore it?
That's what the issue was for me today when the Globe and Mail published a patently bogus story about NHL governors considering a second NHL team for Toronto.
For starters, there was no attribution to any of the main parts of the story. I get that, and sometimes we at The Star do the same thing under certain circumstances to protect sources.
But you should know an NHL governor is not necessarily an owner. It could be a GM, a team president or some other executive you've never heard of. Until he was fired last January, John Ferguson was an alternate governor with the Maple Leafs.
So an NHL "governor" could be a somebody or a nobody. That's why this story with anonymous sources gets tricky.
Other parts were just hilarious. First there's the suggestion that Jim Balsillie, the same fellow NHL authorities clearly don't want part of their league, would somehow be "rewarded" with a franchise.
Why would the NHL do that?
Second, that such a franchise could cost $700 million to settle with the Leafs. In these economic conditions, and with the dollar going down, would it be reasonable for an NHL owner in Toronto to start $700 million in the red? I know Balsillie's a billionaire, but he's a billionaire because he makes profitable business investments.
The story made no sense. I said we should ignore it, and that writing about it simply gives credence to a story with no real facts.
My editor disagreed, and we agreed I would blog on the topic. Editors always win.
So what do you think? Should we have ignored it or discussed it?
Anyways, here are some thoughts on a second team in Toronto.
People outside Toronto have long loved the idea because they perceive this to be a fertile market underserved by the NHL. Some inside Toronto love the idea because the Leafs have played people in town for suckers for so long, an alternative product is attractive.
People in general believe a second NHL team in Toronto would be enormously successful. That might even be true.
But this isn't a right or wrong, fair or unfair story.
It's a business story, and here are the facts.
First, monopolies don't voluntarily break themselves up. The Leafs have a monopoly in this incredible hockey market and they have no intention of sharing it or allowing any competition in the market. That's why, don't forget, they wouldn't sell Maple Leaf Gardens to Eugene Melnyk.
Second, a second NHL team in Toronto is of no help whatsoever to the 24 teams based in the U.S. other than it might create another team to contribute to the revenue sharing pool rather than take from that pool.
Third, there is no incentive for the league to carve up its best market into smaller pieces. It might satisfy those who believe the Leafs shouldn't have a monopoly, but a second team in Toronto really does nothing to improve the NHL's business in a substantial way.
Fourth, there is no guarantee a second team would work. There are three teams in the New York area, but only the Rangers are significantly successful as a commercial venture. The Lakers and Clippers share a fertile basketball market in Los Angeles, but only the Lakers are successful.
Then again, the Mets and Yankees co-exist rather well in New York. So the point is, there's no guarantee a second team in Toronto would do well, particularly if it was a poorly-run as the Maple Leafs in terms of on-ice competitiveness.
Fifth, this is an old story that's been kicking around forever. Kudos to the Globe for getting a headline, but not only is there nothing to this story, there's nothing new here.
Sixth, if a second team in Toronto makes sense, wouldn't a second team in Montreal also work? In Philadelphia? In Detroit? Chopping up your best markets doesn't help the markets that don't work so well.
Look, if Jeremy Jacobs or Ed Snider or Larry Tanenbaum starts aggressively pushing the concept of a second team in Toronto, then it will be time to start seriously considering the notion.
Right now, I think the NHL would expand to Europe long before it considers another GTA club.
And, unlike Melnyk, I think the Euro wing of the NHL is a decade or more away.
Bottom line: The NHL isn't putting a second team in Toronto, mostly because the Leafs would never go for it but also because it makes little or no financial sense for the league.So that's my take. For another view, be sure to check out Dave Perkins' column in tomorrow's Star.