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Chicago Blackhawks right wing Corey Perry plays against the Nashville Predators, in Nashville, Tenn. on Nov. 18.George Walker IV/The Associated Press

Ten days ago, Corey Perry disappeared from the Chicago Blackhawks’ lineup.

As best anyone could tell, he wasn’t injured. He just wasn’t there. The team called it “an organizational decision.”

Since Perry is arguably the best player on a bad Chicago team, that seemed odd.

Over the weekend, Perry’s agent updated the situation without clarifying it much. His client had “stepped away” to “attend to personal matters.”

Shortly after that happened, a salacious rumour that cannot be repeated here got hold of the imagination of the NHL blogosphere. If you have a more than passing interest in the league as well as WiFi access, you’ve probably heard it by now.

This “I know a guy who knows a guy who told me X did Y” stuff is omnipresent in the moist corners of sports Twitter, now known as X. People have learned to tune it out.

But on Wednesday afternoon, Chicago announced its intention to cut Perry.

“After an internal investigation, the Chicago Blackhawks have determined that Corey Perry has engaged in conduct that is unacceptable, and in violation of the both the terms of his standard player’s contract and the Blackhawks internal policies intended to promote professional and safe work environments,” the team said in a release.

If you’ve heard the rumour, this explanation does not help dispel it. It seems designed to achieve the opposite effect.

For several hours, a lot of sensible people who were convinced the rumour could not possibly be true began to reconsider their opinion. I mean, who does things this way?

Ladies and gentlemen – I give you the Chicago Blackhawks.

After all the chatter, Chicago general manager Kyle Davidson spoke to the media.

His explanation – that Perry did something wrong, that the club is not prepared to say what, but that whatever it is “does not involve any players or their families.” This was the crux of the rumour.

At this point, some people already know what I’m talking about, some are Googling in another tab, and a few elevated souls are confused and plan to stay that way. If you’re in the third group, I salute you.

Hockey is full of these stories. If you’re from Toronto, there’s a famous one involving the romantic peccadilloes of several members of the late 1980s/early 1990s Maple Leafs. Before the internet, all of my buddies had heard some version of this rumour. Most had a curated spin on how it had gone down. How did they know? Their mom bought meat from a guy whose cousin worked a ticket booth at Maple Leaf Gardens or some such.

Back then, it seemed pretty harmless. It’s not like the players were going to hear what we were saying in the cafeteria at Western Tech and have their feelings hurt. It seems less harmless now.

The Blackhawks organization has a bad record at handling delicate media files. Over the past couple of years, they’ve undermanaged two sex-abuse scandals, two lawsuits, a purported cover-up and a total annihilation of their former management ranks stretching out over multiple teams.

You’d think that’s taught them a few things. For one, that secrets are institutional battery acid. Give them any time at all and they will eat through your plans.

You’d think that, but I guess not. They say that if a murder is going to be solved, it happens within three days. However, it takes the Chicago hockey team two weeks to get a straight answer to a straight question. In the interim, some fan fiction straight out of Penthouse Forum was allowed to fester.

The problem with such things is that unless you address them directly, and by name, some people will assume you are using lawyers’ tricks to wriggle out of the truth.

Who’s to say that Perry wasn’t dispatched for something other than the thing they are now saying never happened, meaning it still might have? The internet, that’s who.

The rumour has been refuted. But having been allowed to gather so much momentum while Chicago dithered, it will never die.

What should they have done? The same thing, but more quickly and more forthrightly. Fibs of omission (“organizational decision” and “personal matters”) should not have been allowed to creep in.

You’re a professional sports team. Do what you do with all your roster problems – throw so much money at them that they go away.

Instead, Chicago is left wondering what else is going to pop up on Reddit about this, and who else wants to take a shot at unravelling it. If Perry ends up on another team, this story could still bite them. If he doesn’t, and minds are left to wander, it could be worse.

My suspicion is that we’re already as close to an official statement on this as we’re likely to. That Perry, who’s 38 years old, will be convinced to go off gently into that good night. That this becomes another one of those stories you heard in the cafeteria. Is it true? Of course not. But who knows?

When it needs to, hockey does omertà better than any other sport. Off the record and after it’s all over, they are full of stories that have never reached the light because no one had any idea they were happening.

That’s the crucial part of secret-keeping. Not that no one can know, but that no one can know there is anything to know in the first place.

Maybe this was nothing, maybe it was something and maybe we’ll never know. And while not knowing is often for the best, I wonder if everyone directly touched by this non-scandal thinks that it is in this instance.

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