As far as lies go, Ron Wilson’s was hardly a great, big whopper.
But in meeting with the media the past few days, the Toronto Maple Leafs head coach clearly seemed to serve up a mistruth or two when it came to his goalies.
Not wanting it known James Reimer would make his long-awaited return from a head injury, Wilson informed the gathered horde Friday he had told backup Jonas Gustavsson he would start in Boston the next night.
A day later, that didn’t appear to be entirely true.
Asked Saturday when the decision to play Reimer was made, Wilson said, curtly, “about three days ago.”
The fib hardly seemed to matter in the scheme of things, as the Leafs went out and lost 4-1 to the Bruins, dropping the fourth game in a row to their division rival despite having Reimer in goal for the first time since mid-October.
But the move by Wilson raised some interesting questions, with the most obvious being why be misleading at all?
The Bruins, after all, didn’t announce a starting goaltender on Saturday – a common practice for coach Claude Julien. So when backup Tuukka Rask took to the crease in the pregame warm-up, instead of starter Tim Thomas, it was a surprise to everyone on hand.
Beyond the why, however, presenting misinformation on purpose enters all sorts of other grey areas.
Are there ethical implications involved? Or even ones of poor sportsmanship?
In the NFL, for example, teams are fined for inaccurately reporting injuries, part of a policy instituted in 1947 that, in many ways, is related to gambling on games.
One prominent recent example of its use was the $125,000 (U.S.) the New York Jets paid for hiding the fact quarterback Brett Favre had a torn biceps tendon in 2008.
While the NHL doesn’t have a specific set of guidelines when it comes to truth telling, deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Sunday that being outright dishonest is frowned upon.
“I’m not sure there is a policy, per se,” Daly said. “But certainly we tell clubs that they are not entitled to ‘lie’ to the media.”
Leafs GM Brian Burke, meanwhile, wasn’t thrilled Wilson’s various statements were being called lies at all.
“The coach is free to change his mind without his integrity being questioned,” Burke said. “That’s his right and his job.”
Wilson was having a little more fun with the situation, responding to some of the criticism he took from the media on his Twitter account.
After the Leafs finished practising in Central Park on Sunday afternoon, he tweeted: “Favorite movies: Liar, Liar; The Invention of Lying; Big Fat Liar. Ha Ha!”
Only 10 minutes earlier, Wilson had told the media that Gustavsson would start Monday against the New York Rangers and Reimer would take over Tuesday at home against the New Jersey Devils.
The truth? We’ll have to wait and see.