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The Usual Suspects

On tampering and tweeting Add to ...

"It is a very sad thing," said Oscar Wilde, "that nowadays there is so little useless information." Just ask Toronto coach Ron Wilson. The notoriously thin-skinned Leafs coach thought he was simply shooting the breeze when he told Bob McCown (and thousands of Bob's closest friends on The FAN radio network) that the Maple Leafs were going to pursue the Sedin twins if they became unrestricted free agents. Had Wilson waited just 24 hours to blab team strategy about the Vancouver forwards, the information might well have been virtually useless.

But Wilson flapped his gums a day before the Sedins became eligible for free agency - and while they were still in the midst of intense negotiations with the Vancouver Canucks. Which, to the NHL, sounds eerily like the dreaded T-word (tampering). More damning for Wilson and the Leafs, his boss, GM Brian Burke, was winging his way to Sweden, home of-- well, your first two guesses don't count. (Burke says he was there to sign free agent goalie Jonas Gustavsson. Cough, cough.)

Naturally, the Canucks - who signed the Sedins all the same - were not amused, and the NHL is now looking into Wilson using the media to give the Sedins the all-clear on free agency. If found guilty, Toronto could pay a big price for Wilson's indiscretion. In 1999, the NHL awarded New Jersey more than $1.4-million (U.S.) from St. Louis and their choice of one of the Blues' first-round draft picks in the subsequent five years for tampering with then-Devil Scott Stevens in 1991. New Jersey also gained the ability to swap first-round picks once during that time period, with the Blues able to defer the claim one time. (Just what Burke needs in his effort to rebuild the Leafs.) As often happens in the forgiving hockey culture, some media sought to bail out Wilson, a charter member of the lodge. Sportsnet's Mike Brophy - asked by Brad Fay if it was "pushing the envelope" to call this tampering - bizarrely saw the issue from a personal POV: "I would hate to think, as a reporter, that this guy gets nailed for tampering, and for the next five years every time we ask Ron Wilson a question we get, 'No comment'... If he stepped over the line it's how far over the line did he step? Is it worthy of a monster fine? I don't think it is."

Brophy didn't suggest how far Wilson would have to stray over the line before he might consider it tampering, however. Ah, the NHL... where tampering means you never have to say you're sorry.

Faint Praise: Well, if the media can call Michael Jackson a great humanitarian then we suppose murdered NFL QB Steve McNair - found dead next to his mistress - can be called an "inspiration to youth" by the same talking heads. May we all be afforded the same latitude.

New Voice: Let's see. You could have started a job covering Wall Street in the fall of 2008. You could be commencing a bio with Governor Mark Sanford. Or you could be a new TV reporter sent to cover Toronto's wonderful pro sports teams.

Calgary native Katherine Dolan is the brave soul taking on Toronto's chronic underachievers for TSN. "There are plenty of stories to tell with what's happening on the Leafs right now," she told Usual Suspects. "And for a while, the Jays sparked a little renewed hope."

We told you she was brave.

Dolan left Calgary in 2001 to be a teacher; three years later she took grad studies in journalism at Western Ontario and began a trek to gain broadcast experience: London, Calgary, Vancouver, Timmins ("I ate deer and moose meat and learned how to drive a snowmobile"), Sault Ste. Marie, Barrie and now Toronto.

"In the Sault I got a chance to work with Craig Hartsburg and the Greyhounds, and that was my best experience," says the avid marathon runner. "We had the OHL All-Star game there, and the Greyhounds went to the conference finals. I learned how to ask good questions and tell good stories. If I didn't have that experience doing live hits before every Greyhound game I wouldn't have the tools to do this job."

And what's her dream assignment? "Follow the Stanley Cup all the way through to the end. We watched the final game of this year's final in Kingston, and I loved watching Scott Oake ask the questions-- that one time you get complete honesty from these guys who've waited their entire lives for this moment."

Tweet Petite: Former Toronto Raptor Charlie Villanueva is Tweet on his new team, the Detroit Pistons. A dedicated fan of Twitter, Villanueva announced under his "CV31" screen name that he is signing with Detroit-- scooping the team's own announcement. "Well I'm a Piston," Villanueva posted. "Long day yesterday, but got it done, God is good... Deeeeeeetrooooooiiiiittttttt basketballllllllllllll."

The forward made Twitter history this season when he posted random musings at halftime of a game - and drove Bucks coach Scott Skiles absolutely batty. But Villanueva's subscribers quadrupled in the wake of the publicity, and now he boasts almost 40,000 CV31 fans.

Teams are less thrilled about their free-speech employees leaking confidential information and the possibilities of impersonators. Brian Burke and Tony LaRussa are two prominent sports officials who've suffered ID theft on Twitter-- although Twitter has instituted new security methods of late. Teams are now creating group sites where all their players can file without fear of having their identities pirated. But for now, the Villanuevas - and people potentially impersonating him - still have the last word on Twitter.

dowbboy@shaw.ca

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