Were the Tampa Bay Lightning founded by the Mafia? How was your favorite team hosed in the NHL Draft? And, most importantly, was an NHL game rigged by sand?
Welcome to the life of a conspiracy theorist, one that is almost as bad as the life of a Phoenix/Arizona Coyotes fan. At least with believing in conspiracies, there’s some hope you’ll find what you’re looking for and the payoff will be great. There’s not much payoff with being a Coyotes fan. Just look at how this season is already turning out.
Today, we’re going to look at NHL conspiracy theories to see just how weird and strange the world of hockey can be. As always, the only caveat is that these have to be interesting and have generated some major interest. Some random Twitter theory on how the New York Rangers are bound to get the No. 1 pick this spring wouldn’t work, but one about how Gary Bettman is in debt to James Dolan and owes him a pick would be.
If you’re ready to replace the logo on your jersey with that of the Illuminati and prepare to make your thoughts felt on every message board known to man, join me on this journey to explore conspiracy theories.
15. The Yakuza organized the Tampa Bay Lightning
Theory: Reddit user 2ndprize submitted a three-part theory in 2014 with the main point being, “In 1994 there was a dispute brewing at Lightning headquarters over a fairly mundane issue: the media guide. The team was late getting theirs out and the franchise, which already had a less than stellar reputation, looked like a laughing stock. The reason it was late is that some of the pages were being hidden, including from other members of the ownership group. On those hidden pages would appear two words that almost no one in the organization had ever heard: Takashi Okubo. These pages outlined the man who owned the Lightning. A man no fan, member of the media, or NHL official had ever met.”
Reality: This is one of the greatest mysteries in NHL history, one that not even the St. Petersburg Times could figure out. There’s no info on Okubo anywhere. There is a really, really strong chance this is legitimate – and I don’t often buy into these theories.
14. The 2004-05 Lockout was planned
Theory: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and owners intentionally conspired and planned the 2004-05 lockout to either send a message to the players, generate publicity for the league, or because they had some sort of financial issue.
Reality: Officially, the NHL was forced to lockout the season because franchises were losing money, but why would the league want to cancel an entire season to send a message? Players were definitely getting overpaid, but the owners were the ones signing and approving players like Bobby Holik to massive contracts before being bought out within a season or two.
Most likely, the NHL wasn’t prepared for the financial changes and paid the price for their ignorance. We all know Gary Bettman hasn’t always been the best commissioner (understatement of the year), but how would this generate nothing but negative publicity? If anything, the lockout helped alienate many fans who still haven’t come back.
13. John Scott was forced to the AHL
Theory: Arizona Coyotes enforcer John Scott, despite only playing 11 games in the 2015-16, was elected to the NHL All-Star Game after winning the vote. This part is true. Scott was traded to the Montreal Canadiens (and the Eastern Conference) and immediately demoted to the AHL so he couldn’t play in the All-Star Game.
Reality: Given that Scott admitted as much in an article for The Players’ Tribune, this theory is definitely true.
“One of the reasons I’ve made it as long as I have in the league is because I specifically know I’m not an All-Star. So when they asked me to make a statement — nudging the fan vote in another direction and denouncing the John Scott ‘movement’ — I did it without hesitation. I told the fans, ‘Listen. I don’t deserve this. Vote for my teammates.’ And I was telling the truth.”
12. The Wideman Effect
Theory: After crosschecking linesman Don Henderson in a 2016 game against the Nashville Predators and serving a 20-game-suspension, Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman and the rest of his teammates began to be called for more penalties by officials.
Reality: Well, this is somewhat true if you look at penalty statistics, but it’s not entirely accurate. According to Sportsnet.ca’s research in November 2016, the Flames averaged a 48 percent jump in minor penalties after the incident, going from 2.62 in the first 47 games to .388 in the final 34. Not good!
But when it came to power plays, the Flames spent more time (184:17) with the man-advantage than short-handed (182.56) with 115 power-play attempts to 118 short-handed. Most likely, the refs were willing to call minor penalties that otherwise normally would have gone ignored to let the game play on.
11. Cory Schneider was dealt because of his wife
Theory: In 2013, the Vancouver Canucks traded goalie Cory Schneider to the New Jersey Devils not only for the ninth overall pick, but because of an incident between Schneider, his wife, and teammate Ryan Kessler.
Reality: You’re always going to hear stories like this where a player’s wife cheated on him with a teammate and one of the players gets dealt, but we picked Schneider because this is a trade that didn’t come out of the blue. New Jersey needed a long-term replacement for Martin Brodeur – a job Schneider could do and has done – while the Canucks got a high draft pick they’d use on Bo Horvat.
10. Alcohol contributed to Claude Giroux’s dropoff
Theory: After a 2014 arrest for grabbing a police officer’s buttocks while drunk, Philadelphia Flyers star Claude Giroux began to play poorly because he was struggling with alcohol abuse.
Reality: Let’s obviously start by saying that we’re not accusing Giroux of being an alcoholic, nor are we poking fun at something we hope seeks or sought treatment for if he was struggling. Many NHL fans do believe that Giroux was struggling with alcohol and that’s why he went from 86 points in 2013-14 to 73 the next season, 67 in 2015-16, and 58 – his lowest since 47 in 2009-10 – last season. Could a dependence on alcohol have been the reasoning?
9. Alexander Ovechkin faked his age
Theory: Washington Capitals star and future Hall of Famer Alexander Ovechkin isn’t 32 years old like he claims, but much older because he lied about his age before being drafted.
Reality: Given that Ovechkin isn’t a North-American born player, people are obviously going to suggest he’s older because we’ve seen other foreign players in other sports lie about their ages. There was a story earlier this year where NHL insider Martin Leclerc reported on 91.9 Sports in Canada that Ovechkin, Alex Radulov, and Mikhail Grigorenko all lied about their ages.
“With the Russians, you never know their age. It’s the same problems the MLB faced with Dominican players,” Leclerc said and, in his defense, it is a theme we’ve seen plenty of times. Was that the best way to phrase things? Maybe not, but it’s certainly a theory.
8. Gary Bettman hates the Devils
Theory: No one seems to like NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and it seems he feels the same way torwards the New Jersey Devils. One Reddit user outlined three clear ways Bettman is anti-New Jersey:
– [Bettman] was in favor of moving the team to Nashville after they reached the ECF and consistently made the playoffs and was growing in popularity.
– The Marty Rule aka trapezoid rule (Note: That rule is where the goalie can only play the puck within that area or in front of the goal line).
– [They were] the only team to get punished for front loading long term contracts to circumvent the cap, despite other teams doing the exact same thing.
7. The Brett Hull incident
Theory: The NHL and its referees had no problem allowing Dallas Stars sniper Brett Hull to score in the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals despite his foot clearly being in the forbidden zone. Part of this was to help Dallas – a sports city which had struggled outside of the Cowboys – to earn money and publicity. This was also why the NHL failed to inform fans that such a move was legal.
Reality: Before being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009, Hull had this to say:
“We all knew that they had changed the rule. But obviously the NHL decided they weren’t going to tell anybody but the teams … They changed the rule to say if you have control in the crease, you can score the goal, and that’s exactly what it was. But nobody knows that. You can tell people that a million times and they just will not listen.”
6. The 2011 NHL Playoffs were rigged
Theory: The 2010-11 Boston Bruins were in the midst of a miracle year, but did the NHL make calls – or, to be more accurate, no calls – that allowed the Bruins to win the Stanley Cup finals?
Reality: Part of this theory gains credibility when we remember that Bettman removed Colin Campbell as the league’s head disciplinarian because of concerns that Campbell could show bias with regards to his son and Bruins player Gregory…but is that enough?
Many have pointed to blown calls as hint for more bias, but it was the lack of suspensions that really raised some eyebrows here. It’d be one thing for the NHL to let the boys play and not care, but when one of the main decision makers has a son involved….hmm….
5. The NHL Rigged Coyotes Games To Help Sell The Team
Theory: While the Arizona (then Phoenix) Coyotes were owned by the NHL, the league forced calls to go the team’s way during the 2009-10 season and ensuing playoff run. The main factor? The NHL needed someone to buy one of the league’s worst teams and winning would generate genuine interest.
Reality: If this is true, think about how much different this would be compared to other sports. Major League Baseball purposefully hurt the league-owned Expos in 2003 by preventing them from calling up players in September, while the NBA refused to trade Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2011. Here, you’d have the league trying to ensure their team does well by altering the effects of games.
4. The NHL is allowing PED use
Theory: Like Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League has no problems with performance-enhancing drugs. Though hockey players can’t obviously hit home runs, the PEDs are instead helping with durability and are ignored by the league so players can stay healthy.
Reality: Because the drug policy is far from perfect, it’s reasonable to think this theory may have some serious merit. Hockey players go through a serious grind for over 80 games a season – and some years, close to 100 – and they obviously don’t want their bodies to break down.
It’s also worth noting that the NHLPA’s head is Donald Fehr, who you may remember from his time with Major League Baseball. When were Fehr’s prominent years with baseball? The steroid era, of course! Hmm…
3. The Canadiens put sand in the Flyers’ skates
Theory: During the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs, NBC’s Pierre McGuire commented on air that he believed “sand or some other foreign substance” was near the Flyers’ dressing room and contributed to players falling in the team’s 3-0 Game 4 victory.
Reality: Nothing was really ever determined, but the evidence seems to point towards SandGate being a legitimate thing and not a simple wardrobe malfunction. Flyers captain Mike Richards believed anything was possible, telling reporters, “I think it was five times that I had to get my skates sharpened tonight, which is obviously a bit much. I’m not sure [what happened]. I didn’t check the carpet for [sand].”
2. NHL Draft Conspiracies
Theory: The NHL screwed over your favorite team when it came time to draft.
Reality: Who’s ready to go over some NHL Draft conspiracies?
– The 2004 NHL Draft was rigged so the Washington Capitals could get a new franchise player in Alexander Ovechkin.
– The 2005 NHL Draft, which had a lottery-like system that had balls corresponding to a team’s recent playoff appearances and No. 1 overall picks, landed the desperate and close to bankrupt Pittsburgh Penguins a surefire star in Sidney Crosby.
– The 2015 NHL Draft was rigged so the Toronto Maple Leafs didn’t land Canadian Connor McDavid and would instead take Auston Matthews.
1. The Wayne Gretzky trade was an inside job
Theory: When the Edmonton Oilers went bankrupt in the 1980s, the NHL forced them to trade the league’s biggest star, Wayne Gretzky, to the Los Angeles Kings.
Reality: How far we’ve come, right? The NBA didn’t want to trade Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers because of the Los Angeles effect and how his presence would create an instant super team when the NHL allowed exactly that years prior with the Gretzky trade!
Now, there’s proof on both sides that this was either legitimate or false, one of those being Gretzky’s wife – an actress in Los Angeles. Is that enough to mean something suspicious happened? The ESPN 30 for 30, Kings Ransom, is a perfect lesson about this trade and what may or may not have gone down.
Which of these conspiracy theories do you buy into the most? Make sure to let us know!
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