The Word:

Unmasked & Anonymous: Answering Ethical Questions About a Blogger Named Eklund

The name Eklund has been well-known to the online hockey fan community since the lockout, when the "anonymous hockey blogger" burst onto the scene with a site that became a clearinghouse of hot stove innuendo and power-circle whispers. Now the lead blogger and man-without-a-face for HockeyBuzz.com, Eklund did something last month that he has not done since the early days of his extremely popular blog: He inserted himself into a major story. Eklund took up the fight for Nashville Predators fans in their staggering battle against relocation; flying in to attend a fan rally and getting up in front of the crowd -- in disguise, naturally -- to offer words of encouragement.

"I did it for a very specific reason, for the same reason I managed to get this thing going during the lockout," he told me in a phone interview on Monday. "I saw hockey being taken away from people who love it, and that's crossing the line. All the rumors in the world don't matter in comparison to those kids who go with their dad every Thursday night [to a game], and then it's gone."

This passionate show of partisan advocacy isn't something you'd expect to see from a professional hockey writer, and that's because Eklund isn't one. But he wants to be, according to Kevin Allen, USA TODAY hockey writer and president of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, who said Eklund has "made it clear he would like to be included" in the organization. The question is whether the PHWA is willing to overlook serious questions about his ethics, tactics and candor in accepting him; and whether Eklund is ready, for the first time in his blogging career, for a little transparency.

Because as Eklund's popularity and influence have grown -- with surging Web traffic, high-profile radio gigs and an on-air role during an NHL trade deadline television special -- so have serious charges about a fraudulent biography, his lack of journalistic ethics and some online behavior that historically has gotten professional reporters fired. During our hour-long conversation, the "anonymous hockey blogger" finally began to answer to them -- with some startling revelations.

Eklund began blogging during the NHL lockout, developing a site called Eklund's Hockey Rumors that provided nuggets of information from unnamed sources which were quickly devoured by hockey fans starving for positive news. With an unquestionable passion for all things hockey, Eklund -- the name came from Pelle Eklund, a former player with his favorite team the Philadelphia Flyers -- claimed to have sources inside the negotiations between the players and the owners, and would boldly (and falsely) predict milestones along the way towards labor peace.

Although his rumors' hit-to-miss ratio would have made him the world's worst Battleship player, his blog blew up; Eklund was being interviewed by the likes of ESPN's Darren Rovell and was going ahead with a plan to create HockeyBuzz, a site with blogs from professional writers and NHL players, along with his own daily scuttlebutt. Since Sept. 2005, HockeyBuzz has expanded dramatically: including fan blogs, podcasts and a subscription service for added access and "exclusive" rumors from the man himself. Eklund has landed several regular radio gigs, including one with XM. He also was a featured "insider" on Sportsnet Canada's Trade Deadline TV Special earlier this year -- an appearance that was viciously panned by both The Toronto Star ("More food is delivered to the Sportsnet set. It isn't clear whether Eklund had predicted the arrival of more pizza.") and the Globe and Mail ("Eklund reported that Smyth had signed a new contract with Edmonton. That was wrong, too." ) Eklund said he isn't sure what Sportsnet's plans are for next deadline; he's leaning towards not having a second go-round, and instead concentrating on breaking news on his blog.

Despite that success, Eklund's reputation has taken more hits than Eric Lindros's cerebellum. The mere mention of his name on sites like the HF Boards draws more jeers than cheers. While there should be no question about the legitimacy of many of his informants, he has been known to cultivate his rumors from such solid sources as Carolina Hurricanes fans on Internet message boards and callers to WFAN in New York. And following that great advice about keeping your enemies closer, Eklund has also offered jobs to his toughest critics, as FanHouse's own Jes Golbez found out first hand.

One of the most controversial aspects of the Eklund legend is his biography. The background he had given to ESPN was in direct contrast with the fanciful origin story he gave FanHouse's Eric McErlain in an early (and must-read) interview in 2005. Self-aggrandizing aside -- I still love the part about having written a book that sold so well he no longer had to work full-time -- the fact was that the official bio on his Web site changed significantly after he began attracting a larger audience.

My theory had always been that Eklund kept his anonymity partly because the public confirmation of his real name -- Google "dwayne" and "klessel" and "eklund," but you ain't heard that from me -- would solidify the contradictions in his biography. And we're talking George O'Leary-level contradictions: Saying he worked for the NHL in one bio and saying he had nothing to do with hockey after college in the other. In the context of the PHWA and professional journalism in general, biographical pissings aren't taken too lightly. "In most cases, if he made up a resume, he'd be fired," said Allen.

So how does Eklund explain the dueling bios? He's given the answer to the writers on his site, to some members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association and to NHL officials. And while he wouldn't confirm it on the record with me -- please note he would not deny it, either -- here is that answer:

Eklund worked for the NHL under both John Ziegler and Gary Bettman. Eklund interned with the Quebec Nordiques. Eklund wrote for the Hockey News. Eklund did all of these things, even though Eklund also had nothing to do with hockey after graduating from college. This is because Eklund -- at least in the pre-HockeyBuzz, rocket-to-lockout-stardom days -- wasn't a person.

"He" was a committee.

Eklund was the byline, but the information about high-level ownership meetings and inside scoops from the NHLPA came from a consortium of plugged-in individuals that wanted to break through the spin machine and speak directly to the fans. The biography on the site was crafted together from different members of this League of Extraordinary Eklunds.

It is my belief that the "blogger by committee" apparently ended when HockeyBuzz started, although Eklund would neither confirm or deny that. Eklund said, on the record, that he writes every blog that appears under his shadowy picture -- and next to what is the "correct" biography for the current incarnation of the anonymous hockey blogger.

But close one door and another opens: McErlain told me that original interview wasn't conducted in the third-person, although that's what Eklund now claims. More importantly, Eklund -- pictured below at this year's NHL Draft in Columbus -- began offering an "insider" service for a subscription fee to readers on his old blog; how many were hoodwinked by what's now clearly just a fairy tale instead of one maverick fan who "personified the passion and ache so many of us felt in that sorry solitude?"

His biography wasn't the only issue in conflict with professional standards. Eklund has long been accused of coming to his own defense under different names -- including "Susan" and "Flyguy31" -- on critical blogs like that of Paul Kukla, an NHL.com columnist and founder of the popular hockey news site Kukla's Korner. "I have him dead to rights," Kukla said. "I've got his IP [address] from the damn arena in Edmonton and from his hotel in North Carolina." Another instance was recorded by a Hurricanes blogger named The Acid Queen, who claimed she tracked a pro-Eklund commenter under the name "ESPN HOCKEY GUY" back to a Philadelphia IP address. "ESPN HOCKEY GUY" also made an appearance on a post critical of Eklund on Fox Sports contributor Mike Chen's blog. The Acid Queen also published what she said was a contentious Instant Messenger conversation between she and Eklund, who told me it wasn't his AIM account and that it was someone claiming to be him -- a common problem for him all over the Web, he said.

There have also been cases in which bloggers critical of Eklund have received anonymous e-mails regarding their posts, either defending him or attacking them. FanHouse's J.P. was one of those bloggers; Eklund would follow up with an e-mail claiming he had nothing to do with the insulting original message to Japers' Rink.

Allen said he and the PHWA are aware of these accusations, which from a journalistic standpoint are quite serious: Not even a Pulitzer Prize could save L.A. Times columnist Michael Hiltzik from punishment for message board sock-puppetry, while Lancaster Intelligencer Journal reporter Justin Quinn's anonymous comments got him canned.

But Eklund made it crystal clear to me: He's never gone on someone else's message board under (another) pseudonym to defend himself, and he's never sent an anonymous e-mail to another blogger. "I don't even know how to send an anonymous e-mails, even though they're sent to me."

He said he didn't want to get into a pissing match with Kukla over his claims because he avoids this kind of "he said, she said" on his blog. But Eklund said Kukla never sent him "the proof" about the IP address situation, and sees it as part of a larger disinformation campaign that specifically targets him. While he had his theories about how the IP addresses may have in fact been spoofed, he refused to go on the record with them. "I'm not a computer guy like [Kukla] is, so I don't know how that's even done."

He may not be a computer guy, but for the PHWA he's been the voice of hockey blogging. Eklund was invited to speak to the PHWA in Dallas during the NHL All-Star Game festivities; introducing himself with his real name, he was involved in a discussion about credentials for hockey bloggers. "It didn't go particularly well," said Allen, "but I bear some of the responsibility for that because of where he was placed on the agenda. It was late."

Much of the internal debate about bloggers in the PHWA has centered around issues of accountability. "Bloggers are a one-man band. If you're unhappy with how a blogger is conducting his or herself, the only recourse is to go to the blogger," said Allen.

Eklund, who considers himself a "de facto" member of the PHWA, said his blog has plenty of accountability, including liability insurance and having to answer to his investors and advertisers. "I think I've proven myself accountable. I think the greatest accountability is to your readers and to your advertisers," he said. "There's no one protecting me. If I want to maintain my relationship with the NHL, I can't be a jerk."

When asked about the editorial accountability many PHWA members have, he said the best thing about bloggers is that they don't have editors to answer to. "With their chain of command, there are pluses and minuses. There are a lot of writers who would rather be blogging for me right now then their newspapers because their newspapers don't get a lot of traffic," he said.

Eklund has received a chilly reception from some PHWA members off the record and behind the scenes. "Every writer that I talked to at that draft, 99% of them absolutely hate the guy [because] they have to go and chase stories," said Kukla. The fact is that HockeyBuzz is a gossip site with destination readership and a catapult for innuendo, with the mainstream media trying to keep up despite the shackles of professional conduct; forcing hockey writers like Michael Russo of the Star Tribune to chase down ghosts.

There's no denying that Eklund now has legitimate sources; if not with NHL franchises themselves, then with player agents and even within the top brass of the NHL, including a relationship with commissioner Gary Bettman. Yet he continues to mix the occasional breaking news with dozens of false leads, bad information and outlandish proposals. Allen said when it comes to the PHWA, there are plenty of different kinds of writers under the tent -- from columnists and rumor-mongers to feature writers -- so Eklund's chosen form of hockey writing isn't an issue. In the end, and even before questions about his ethics would even be addressed, there's only one primary reason why Eklund will not be admitted into the PHWA.

It's the very thing that's brought Eklund both fame and infamy: his anonymity.

"In order to be a part of our organization, you have to have your name out there so you have the accountability for who you are," said Allen. "Eklund is sort of a shtick, with his anonymity being part of his entertainment value, and we are simply not going to admit him because of that. It's a deal-killer, and he's aware of that. Most people know who he is. But on his Web site he doesn't identify himself, and because of that we will not admit him."

The PHWA has decided over the course of its last two meetings to maintain its existing policy on bloggers -- which is to let local chapters decide on local membership applications. "What we're saying is that local chapters know their area and know what's best," said Allen. "In Philadelphia [where Eklund is located], it's up to the local chairperson, Tim Panaccio, to make the decision about local bloggers." Panaccio, the Flyers beat writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer, was one of the first professional journalists to blog on HockeyBuzz for Eklund. Allen said Panaccio's status as both the local PHWA chair and a paid HockeyBuzz columnist isn't a conflict of interest when it comes to Eklund; just like with the national association, Eklund's anonymity prohibits his joining the local chapter as well. Allen also said that while the PHWA may question Eklund's standards and ethics, he has no problem with PHWA members like Panaccio writing for the blogger's site.

In fact, Allen said "a couple of [HockeyBuzz] writers could get in" before Eklund could. So the obvious question is: Why keep up the charade? Why not publish under a real byline, with a real bio, offering the kind of transparency that would answer Eklund's critics and give him PHWA membership?

It's actually something Eklund has been considering.

"I've thought about it. It is a pain in the ass. I don't have the need for the quote-unquote fame of it all. During the lockout, it was really important to be anonymous. But that was a whole different Eklund, too," he said. "I could always do it. But to me, it's more entertaining this way. If I was to give up the anonymity, the Web site might not be as much fun. There really aren't that many people who care about who Eklund is. The truth is that it's such a tiny group."

When it comes to the PHWA, Eklund said he'd be honored to be a member but understands that remaining anonymous is, as Allen said, a deal-killer. "I have never applied to be a member because I would not want to put people in that uncomfortable position, and I frankly do not believe I should be a member," he said. "I appreciate Kevin Allen having me join in the meetings, as they are very educational, and if I can help clear up any Internet questions I will."

The truth is that Eklund doesn't need the PHWA -- he's been embraced by the NHL to the point where access isn't an issue. He said he's working with the organization for the benefit of other bloggers. "There are some great writers out there, and they should be recognized," he said, adding that he one day hopes to have a better relationship with many of the bloggers who are critical of him.

So if he never becomes a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, does Eklund consider himself a journalist, a blogger or both?

"Probably more like an entertainer," he said.

Thanks to Paul Nicholson for the Nashville rally image.

Additional Reading on Eklund:

Reader Comments ( Page 1 of 2)

1. "So if he never becomes a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, does Eklund consider himself a journalist, a blogger or both?

"Probably more like an entertainer," he said."

Exactly. The fact that Eklund is being branded/represented as a blogger is completely false. He might have a blog on his site, but he is certainly nothing more than a huckster who performs the same function as the National Enquirer (Which would explain his fame...people like trash).

Posted at 11:46AM on Aug 1st 2007 by Jes Golbez

2. Very good piece.

In this case, Eklund should not be allowed in the PHWA because he does not have the balls to stand up to his mistakes. It seems like Fanhouse and Deadspin do that, so I'd like to see those writers looked at for organizations. But until Eklund takes his website as seriously as some of his readers do, then he shouldn't be allowed in.

Posted at 12:10PM on Aug 1st 2007 by mlmintampa

3. Thanks for this, Greg. As a diehard Devs fan who limits his online hockey blog exposure, I know of Eklund, have read his site very infrequently, and am aware he's attached his name to less than accurate rumors about the Devils. I also know that he's incredibly divisive. But this provides a comprehensive backstory and perspective. Great stuff.

Posted at 12:22PM on Aug 1st 2007 by Tom Mantzouranis

4. Good writeup.

Eklund was a real beacon of hope and information during the lockout. Maybe at that point it was nice just to be hearing SOMETHING, ANYTHING.

I never bought his shtick and can't see how anyone else could either. There are plenty of reputable, knowledgable hockey bloggers out there that you can actually trust their word.

You can tell Eklund just throws a lot of crap to the wall and sees if it sticks.

Posted at 12:53PM on Aug 1st 2007 by Hooks_Orpik

5. Greg-

Firstly, major props for this awesome post.

Secondly, it brings up a major question -- one that Eric probably would have opinions on as well: Should bloggers be part of the writer's association and what kind of credentials should be required.

Although I'm not "plugged in" like Eklund claims he is, I certainly consider myself a responsible journalist and there are MANY other bloggers I put ahead of him in that category -- including you adn all of the other bloggers you cite in the story (Eric, JP, Kukla, etc.)

Posted at 12:53PM on Aug 1st 2007 by Rob

6. Greg, I'm pretty sure Eklund is that guy who runs the Andy Kaufman Lives website.

Posted at 1:03PM on Aug 1st 2007 by Steve

7. Also, is Eklund like Michael Scott? A blogger first, a journalist second, and an entertainer third?

Posted at 1:30PM on Aug 1st 2007 by Steve

8. Greg -

Excellent piece! The kind of "blogger" Eklund is bothers me to no end. I'm glad you have taken the time to write about this.

He spews information and what gets me is that people worship the ground he walks on and I can't imagine why! 90% of the stuff he writes is patently false and the fact that he's a blogger, he doesn't need to check his facts.

Plus, I think his hockey knowledge is very suspect as well. He seems not to take the time to think about what rumor he is presenting and how it would make sense financially along with the developmental vision of the franchise (he has claimed some whoppers lately for players here in the Valley).

He reminds me a lot of Stephen Glass, but instead of getting fired or in a blogger's case being ignored, people continue to read his stuff. I still don't get it.

Again, nicely done.

Posted at 1:32PM on Aug 1st 2007 by PB

9. I find it very amusing that Eklund still insists that he wasn't the one who IMed me because--zounds!--he only has one AIM ID!

AIM IDs are easy to get, and a person's writing style is almost impossible to fake. I would not have posted those transcripts were I not 100% sure that it was Dwayne Klessel errr Eklund that had IMed me.

The minute Dwayne-o shows himself to really be accountable for anything is the day the NHL folds up shop for good.

Posted at 1:32PM on Aug 1st 2007 by The Acid Queen

10. Great post, and it asks alot of great questions.

This is part of the larger issue of are bloggers journalists or not. The line is a fine one for sure, but you write:

"he continues to mix the occasional breaking news with dozens of false leads, bad information and outlandish proposals."

Exactly the problem with Eklund. It is clear that anyone who who just offers conjecture that more often or not does not come true has no place at all in the PHWA or any legit journalism sphere.

Posted at 1:32PM on Aug 1st 2007 by Allen

11. Now you tell me he's unreliable?!!!

I'd been making hockey decisions based on his blog for years! Oh, things are not looking good for ol' JFJ.

Posted at 2:25PM on Aug 1st 2007 by John Ferguson, Junior

12. If anyone wants to read a really engaging message board discussion regarding blogger credentials including comments from all the heavyweights of the blogsphere, I would like to direct you here- it will be the most entertaining read on this subject since this column!

http://www.ajc.com/blogs/content/shared-blogs/ajc/thrashers/entries/2007/01/24/debating_access.html

Posted at 2:26PM on Aug 1st 2007 by Pete

13. Fine job, Greg.

It's not an easy job trying to untangle the rat's nest, but you've done an admirable job.

The more people realize that he's a fraud, the better.

Posted at 2:38PM on Aug 1st 2007 by Gustafsson

14. Great job Greg. I guess it's good that Eklund recognizes his role as "entertainment" based, but do you think that is enough to legitimize any rumor just for entertainment value?

My biggest concern continues to be that groups like the PWHA turn to Eklund as the "voice of bloggers."

Posted at 2:53PM on Aug 1st 2007 by Jen

15. "Exactly the problem with Eklund. It is clear that anyone who who just offers conjecture that more often or not does not come true has no place at all in the PHWA or any legit journalism sphere."

You mean like Bruce Garrioch & Larry Brooks and every other rumor reporting journalist?

Posted at 2:54PM on Aug 1st 2007 by chris

16. This was one hell of a smackdown (e4).

Posted at 3:13PM on Aug 1st 2007 by J.P.

17. Great, thanks... All Merchandice is now 1/2 price at
http://www.cafepress.com/insearchofek

Posted at 3:13PM on Aug 1st 2007 by Imposterdamus

18. ha- ha- I LOVE it in thong form!

http://www.cafepress.com/insearchofek.23157376

Posted at 3:38PM on Aug 1st 2007 by VulcanizedRubber

19. I hear that Eklund’s info comes from a stolen blackberry that he found on a NY subway near the NHL offices. Unfortuantely, I found out about all of this the hard way as an unknown bystander to an NHL scandel worse than any NBA ref scandel. It all started with Eklund and Scott Niedermayer behind the dumpsters of the Anaheim Arena three hours before game two of the Stanley Cup Finlas . Scott Neidermayer has Eklund held at gunpoint. A car comes up over the hill and out runs Chris Pronger to see what is going on ... Scott is asking “what’s on the blackberry, Dwayne?” and it being revealed to be an e-mail from Pronger’s wife stating she really did like Edmonton. Scott goes ape**** and unloads six bullets into Dwayne’s chest.

My question is did Dwayne have to die? On the security cameras at the parking lot if you listen carefully you can hear Giguere beep three times outside—is this a sign that they were succesful? I don’t know ... maybe Dwayne just realized that nobody dies alone and he was ready to see what was next. ????? What was especially curious was that Dwayne’s body didn’t vanish like Yoda’s or Obi Wan’s after they died. I hope we get an explanation for this one day.

After all this happened Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger and Giguere decided that the contents of the blackberry were never to be seen. This way each paying hockeybuzz member would fill in the blank with their own ultimate rumor.

Posted at 6:29PM on Aug 1st 2007 by Pelle Eklund

20. I hear that Eklund’s info comes from a stolen blackberry that he found on a NY subway near the NHL offices. Unfortuantely, I found out about all of this the hard way as an unknown bystander to an NHL scandel worse than any NBA ref scandel. It all started with Eklund and Scott Niedermayer behind the dumpsters of the Anaheim Arena three hours before game two of the Stanley Cup Finlas . Scott Neidermayer has Eklund held at gunpoint. A car comes up over the hill and out runs Chris Pronger to see what is going on ... Scott is asking “what’s on the blackberry, Dwayne?” and it being revealed to be an e-mail from Pronger’s wife stating she really did like Edmonton. Scott goes ape**** and unloads six bullets into Dwayne’s chest.

My question is did Dwayne have to die? On the security cameras at the parking lot if you listen carefully you can hear Giguere beep three times outside—is this a sign that they were succesful? I don’t know ... maybe Dwayne just realized that nobody dies alone and he was ready to see what was next. ????? What was especially curious was that Dwayne’s body didn’t vanish like Yoda’s or Obi Wan’s after they died. I hope we get an explanation for this one day.

After all this happened Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger and Giguere decided that the contents of the blackberry were never to be seen. This way each paying hockeybuzz member would fill in the blank with their own ultimate rumor.

Posted at 6:30PM on Aug 1st 2007 by The Real Pelle Eklund

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