Like Paul Kukla, I went to the trouble to track Eklund’s IP address on my former website at the time because strange things seemed to be happening. Also like Paul, I didn’t bother “outing” Eklund’s goofy behavior… but for different reasons. In Paul’s case, he simply wanted the fake comments being put on KK to stop, so he wanted to handle it with Eklund behind the scenes, without drama.
For me, I didn’t bother publishing it because it seemed so crazy, it’s been difficult to understand the motivation for his behavior. Perhaps Eklund isn’t the first blogger to post fake comments using different names—I’ve never done it myself, though I’m computer savvy enough to know it’s a dumbassed idea from the start; and besides, anonymity isn’t my thing—but he’s got to be the first to go to such enormous trouble to maintain the illusion of innocence.
The explanations that Eklund provided to defend himself were pretty bizarre: That he wasn’t leaving the comments, that his IP had been “stolen” to frame him somehow, that people were trying to physically harm him and his family, and so on. (And those are just the public reasons he himself published on Hockey Futures boards, and other places. His private email “explanations” for this stuff are so completely over-the-top, I’ll do him the favor of not publishing those.)*
Why does this matter?
There seems to be this perception that pointing out Eklund’s strange behavior indicates jealousy or something of the sort. I’m not sure I quite understand this accusation, as there are more than a few bloggers doing very well and making a living with their hockey blogging. Through very hard work, Kukla certainly does well (heck, he even keeps me off unemployment), and Eric McErlain has rolled his hockey blogging into some interesting new ventures. Then there’s HockeyFights.com which is very successful, and so on.
So I have no objection to others making a living off their writing, nor do I have any objection to people publishing stuff I completely disagree with. That’s the fun of editorializing sports.
But credibility is a complicated issue, as every hockey blogger knows. Most of the NHL’s teams have been slow to recognize the value of fan-created media, often making it unreasonably difficult to do the jobs that most do for free, for love of the game and the pleasure of their readers. And there are many reasons for that… but one of those reasons is definitely Eklund.
I barely even knew who Eklund was the first time I got rejected for media credentials with the Canucks (early last season), but rumors and comments from friends who knew better—in the mainstream sports media and in the NHL offices themselves—made it clear why bloggers were in a particularly bad spot: Eklund. The feeling was that the lies they could confirm (that he definitely did NOT have the connections back then that he claimed, nor the background in hockey that he insisted he had) made them distrust accountability from hockey bloggers.
I can certainly see their point.
It’s been a very big fight for bloggers to regain that trust from teams, the mainstream media, and the NHL. But it has slowly happened in spite of Mr. Eklund. However, while a few of us have been lucky enough to finally achieve our own press credentials with some teams and the NHL itself, many more excellent amateur writers out there will continue to fight this fight—for creds or simply for basic respect—for a long time. Eklund is one of the reasons for that.**
To return to the opening of this post, Sportsnet has decided that they either want to capitalize on this controversy by generating what is essentially a freak show, or they simply don’t care about credibility in hockey journalism. While hockey bloggers are finally overcoming the stigma of being associated with Mr. Eklund, Sportsnet has decided that it’s worth the risk.
Perhaps it is—I know nothing about broadcasting freak shows, and perhaps there’s a lot of money to be made from the experience. But I do know one thing: Eklund’s performance on Sportsnet will be used to discredit plenty of bloggers in different ways, both in the NHL and the mainstream media. It’s happened before, and it will continue to happen.
The only difference this time is that Sportsnet has decided they want to discredit themselves as well.
*To protect myself from unfounded accusations by Mr. Eklund, this documentation was saved by screenshots using an online, 3rd party stat counter. If Eklund wants to continue to argue that he’s being setup and suggest legal action, I’ll certainly be happy to publish the screen shots of his activities if he wishes. And then I’ll be compelled to print his emails as well, to fully clarify his position.
**To those people who enjoy Mr. Eklund’s website and perhaps even consider themselves his friend, you are free to disagree with me. I’m glad you enjoy his work—everyone is entertained by their own thing. My interest is not in Mr. Eklund, but in the greater exposure of the sport of hockey through blogs. It is simply my experience that Eklund has done a great deal of damage to that potential exposure.