Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Smash Talk

Montreal lives and breathes hockey. Some, as it happens often when fanaticism borders obsession, dare to call it a religion.

A religion with blasphemy, vilification and false idols.

Hockey Montreal gets in an uproar after a few losses. Hockey Montreal always speculates about the next trade, what should the coach and the general manager do, what can be done to bring the Saint Graal home. What Hockey Montreal would be without these rumours and assumptions?

It's in that setting and spirit that the following story takes place.

A friend of a friend (Given the number of times I've read this rumour today, I need to stress out this part: I AM NOT THE PERSON WHO DID THIS), an incorrigible prankster, grew tired of the neverending speculations of the "connaisseurs" and decided to act on it. He picked an english-sounding name, Tim ******, opened a free email account and contacted a sports talk-radio host that sometimes doubles as a journalist. He sent the following email, in broken french (translation in english, when needed, follows in italics):

From: Tim ****** [mailto:tim******]
Date: Tue. 2009-02-03 3:00PM
To: Michel Villeneuve
Subject : CKAC Sports

Message :

Bonjour M.Villeneuve,

Je suis plafinicateur financier pour son famille Richards. Étant un partenaire d\'affaire avec le G***, (Brad Richards père), j\'ai été contacted samedi pour connaître les lois fiscales au Canada pour son fils. G*** m\'a dit son fils sera trade à Montréal et qu\'avant de canceller sa non-trade clause, de verifier la fiscalité au Canada. J\'ai regardé le dossier de Matt Niskanen, un american pour les Dallas Stars.


(Hello Mr.Villeneuve,

I am a financial planner for the Richards family. Being a business partner of G*** (Brad Richards' father), I was contacted Saturday to research Canadian fiscal law for his son. G*** told me that his son would be traded to Montreal, and to verify fiscality issues before he waved his non-trade clause. I also looked at Matt Niskanen files, an American-citizen playing for the Dallas Stars.


Mr. Villeneuve's reply:

Subject: RE : CKAC Sports
Date: Tue, 3 Feb 2009 3:47:56PM -0500
From: michel.villeneuve@********
To: tim******

Comment vérifier l'exactitude de vos propos ?
(How to confirm the exactness of your claims?)

Here, the prankster goes full throttle with a simple, yet daring plan. He already looked up Brad Richards' bio to find his father's name, he just needed to get a number from a web-based phone directory:

From: Tim ****** [mailto:tim******]
Date: Tue. 2009-02-03 4:00PM
To: Michel Villeneuve
Subject : RE: RE : CKAC Sports

You can call G*** Richards

at: 902-***-***


Oh, wait, there's a missing number!

Subject: RE : RE : CKAC Sports
Date: Tue, 3 Feb 2009 4:12:10PM -0500
From: michel.villeneuve@********
To: tim******

je n'ai pas le numéro complet de monsieur Richards
(I don't have Mr. Richards' full number)

"Honest" mistake.

From: Tim ****** [mailto:tim******]
Date: Tue. 2009-02-03 4:15PM
To: Michel Villeneuve
Subject : RE: RE : RE : CKAC Sports


Of course, Mr. Villeneuve, as a competent journalist, needs to verify the info. He calls the given number, and replies to "Tim":

Subject: RE : RE : RE : CKAC Sports
Date: Tue, 3 Feb 2009 4:44:34PM -0500
From: michel.villeneuve@********
To: tim******

this is a recording machine. I will try to speak to mr Richards but it's make sense.

Why the Stars let Brad go ?

To my knowledge, "Tim" didn't reply. Seems that this was enough for Villeneuve to cancel his planned programming for the radio show he'd host later that day, and focus entirely on speculations surrounding this credible "news item".

Serious and professional journalism at its best.

Most sports medias didn't take the rumour seriously, but many message boards debated the story and some sports websites spent time covering it, as shown here and here (with many more examples in french).

The rumours about Brad Richards being traded to Montreal will be old news by tomorrow, yet, the priests will keep preaching their gospel.

Time to go pray at the rink.

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