The Colorado Avalanche’s recent trade of right wing Steve Downie to the Philadelphia Flyers for veteran checking winger Max Talbot puzzled some observers.
Downie, 26, is an energetic, agitating forward with decent offensive skills, whereas the 29-year-old Talbot, though a respected veteran, is more of a defensive specialist.
Several theories were bandied about, suggesting Downie was moved because of his UFA status next summer, or to clear cap space now for another move later in the season. CBC’s Elliotte Friedman revealed a pre-season clash between Downie and Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog was believed the real reason.
And then there were those batty conspiracy theorists who believe the real reason Downie was dealt was he slept with Semyon Varlamov’s girlfriend, leading to Varlamov’s recent arrest on domestic violence charges.
This tripe was e-mailed to me by one of my supposed “long-time followers”, claiming his “good friend” in the Avs front office told him this fantastic piece of “inside info”.
The myth of an NHL player being traded because he slept with a teammate’s wife/girlfriend has floated around like a giant turd for years. Whenever a trade takes place which doesn’t make sense to some fans, up pops the “he was screwing a teammate’s wife/girlfriend” story.
I first encountered this myth during the 1994-95 season, when Mathieu Schneider was traded by the Montreal Canadiens to the NY Islanders. In the aftermath of that trade, a rumor spread the deal was done because Schneider had an affair with teammate Patrick Roy’s wife.
Schneider and Roy didn’t get along during their years as teammates in Montreal. The low point involved an infamous between-periods dust-up during a game against the Flyers after Roy accused Schneider of not pulling his own weight.
That may have had something to do with Schneider’s eventual trade to the Islanders, but it wasn’t because of a non-existent affair with Roy’s wife.
Another example occurred in 1997, when the Buffalo Sabres inexplicably decided not to re-sign coach Ted Nolan, even though he won the Jack Adams award the previous season as coach of the year.
Nolan had a reputation for being difficult to work with, clahsing with goaltender Dominik Hasek and then-Sabres GM John Muckler (who was also NHL executive of the year that season). Muckler was fired and replaced by Darcy Regier, who made Nolan a contract offer the Adams winner considered low-ball. Nolan rejected the offer and Regier didn’t make another, leaving the 1997 coach of the year unemployed. It was nearly ten years before Nolan got another head coaching job in the NHL.
Some fans, however, believed there had to be a darker reason for Regier’s unwillingness to re-sign Nolan. One of them started a rumor claiming Nolan was axed because he slept with Hasek’s wife. The rumor doesn’t hold up under scrutiny, but it’s a myth which persists to this day.
This myth continues to be recycled with only the names of the players and the teams changing.
Rod Brind’amour’s trade from Philadelphia to Carolina during the 1999-2000 season? Done because Eric Lindros was sleeping with Brind’amour’s wife. Even better, Lindros supposedly suffered one of his many concussions after Brindy attacked him in the dressing room with a folding chair – Stone Cold style! – when he learned the “truth”.
The real reason was Flyers GM Bob Clarke long coveted the Hurricanes big center Keith Primeau and was willing to part with Brind’amour to get him. There was no affair involving Lindros or any of his teammates’ spouses.
Shane Corson and Alexander Mogilny leaving the Toronto Maple Leafs for personal reasons? Obviously, because Corson slept with Mogilny’s wife. Except that’s not what happened. Corson left the Leafs over a dispute with head coach Pat Quinn about his playing time, not because of any supposed hanky-panky with Mrs. Mogilny.
These rumors are not only ridiculous and unfair to the players/coaches involved, but also besmirch the reputations of their innocent wives/girlfriends. Though they’re almost never mentioned by their full names (usually it’s as “so-and-so’s wife/girlfriend”), they don’t deserve this callous treatment.
Most NHL players tend to lead rather ordinary, even boring, lives. Usually the worst we see of them is during their inebriated Stanley Cup celebrations, which more often than not involves some public profanity or some of them stripping off their shirts in a nightclub to the delight of screaming fans.
They’re not all little angels, of course, but in today’s era of 24-hour new cycles and the prevalence of social media, NHL players rarely appear on gossip websites. Incidents like Varlamov’s recent arrest are rare, especially compared with athletes in the other major North American sports leagues.
NHL general managers make trades or coaching changes for a number of reasons. Sometimes the deals don’t make sense to the fans, but you’d be hard-pressed to find moves made because a player or coach was sleeping around with a teammate’s spouse.
This myth makes juicy gossip, but it’s not based in fact. Like most manure, it’s 100 percent bullshit.