Canucks and Beyond

The Russia -- Sweden -- Sundin -- Vancouver Connection

07/20/2008 at 3:55pm EDT

From Canada’s Vancouver Province to Sweden’s Dagens Nyheter, baseless hockey rumors seem to be infecting the mainstream media world lately, and at a rapid pace.

Yesterday’s “Sundin Picks Vancouver” kerfuffle created a storm of attention, so I contacted the author of that claim last night—Dusan Umicevic— to request more information.

He was generous enough to write back, but after hearing his explanation I don’t believe he had much basis to write the explosive story that he did.

Umicevic writes for Dagens Nyheter, a mainstream news outlet in Sweden. A proper translation of the original DN article illuminated the following claim:

...Mats Sundin has now decided to prolong his career in another club. He’s leaving Toronto, the capital of ice-hockey, where he’s been bigger than the city’s mayor, for Vancouver…

The story has since been denied by Claes Elefalk today, Sundin’s Swedish representative apparently claiming it to be “completely false.”

Nonetheless, I asked Umicevic if he’d be willing to provide hockey fans with a further explanation and so he did. And according to Mr. Umicevic—as I understand his explanation—the entire basis of his story goes back to Russia.

Here’s the breakdown.

Umicevic’s contact in Russia told him that an unspecified KHL club was very interested in signing Sundin (which is certainly believable) and that Sundin’s agent turned them down (also believable, sure) because he had already signed with Vancouver. (Ummm… say what?!?).

Umicevic gave a lot of weight to this claim for what he believed to be a very good reason—his source at the KHL is a well-known big shot in the game. He felt that he was on solid ground in trusting this individual.

Fair enough, but here’s where it falls apart if you ask me: Why on earth would Sundin’s representatives ever tell the Russians—or anyone else, for that matter—that their client had signed in Vancouver, when no one else knew?

They wouldn’t. Not ever.

Unless they were all sitting around and getting drunk on vodka shots, I’m pretty sure they’d simply turn down the offer with a “thanks, but no thanks” and walk away.

Umicevic still had a decent story to write, but I’d say that Russia itself is the real story here.

This whole business isn’t about Sundin or Vancouver or even random silly hockey rumors—it’s about the KHL. In fact, it almost makes one think they’re deliberately playing games with the media. It’s like the Brendan Shanahan story all over again, if you just think back: first there were claims he was going to the KHL, then those claims turned into whispers that he was instead offered a contract by Vancouver, which ultimately turned into this mess I wrote about last week.

It’s like there’s some kind of weird, magnetic connection developing between the KHL, the Vancouver Canucks, and bad msm hockey rumors. (God only knows what’s next… “Luongo Has Russian Mistress! Wants to Break NHL Contract!”? I’m ready for anything.)

Meanwhile, the truth is that Mats Sundin may or may not sign in Vancouver, but the DN report itself has little credibility. The only thing we can reliably believe from all this is that Sundin probably did turn down a contract offer from someone in the KHL. But beyond that, no one knows what he’ll do next.

Least of all the Russians.

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