Did Leafs ownership just accidentally tamper with Steven Stamkos?

What could be seen as a harmless joke by a local Toronto radio station could turn into a punishment for the Leafs organization. 

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As we all know at this point, there are strict rules regarding organizations talking to players outside of their own while they’re under contract to other teams. In the case of Steven Stamkos, this would mean that the Leafs can’t enter any discussions or leave any public comments involving him until no earlier than July 1st, 2016.

While the signage you see above isn’t being created by the Leafs themselves, they’re still connected to it through the complicated ownership web. TSN 1050 Toronto is one of many radio stations owned by TSN, who are 80% owned by Bell Media. Bell Media, coincidentally, is a subsidiary of BCE Inc., which owns 28% of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment, who operate the Toronto Maple Leafs.

In short, Bell owns both TSN 1050 and the Toronto Maple Leafs. As such, this could be seen as Leafs ownership trying to publicly sway Stamkos to sign with the team.

The Leafs have had run-ins with tampering penalties before though their situation was more direct; the team was fined an undisclosed sum after Ron Wilson suggested that the team would try to sign Henrik and Daniel Sedin two days before free agency in 2009. 

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With that said, the NHL’s rules are far from concrete, and it’s hard to decide where the lines are drawn. Would declaring this a form of tampering mean that Bell and Rogers are no longer able to broadcast or publish discussion about non-Leafs players without sabotaging Leafs assets, delivering a gigantic blow to TSN, Sportsnet, and Canadian print media? Can you argue that “Sign Stamkos” is a vague statement that doesn’t implicate the Leafs or Steven specifically, like how scalpers sell “hockey tickets” outside the ACC?

Going back to the Vancouver situation, the Canucks also suggested that a “behind the scenes” mini-documentary by Leafs TV had tampering implications in it by revealing back-room conversations by management regarding Canucks assets. The league ruled that it wasn’t in violation, which could give credence to the idea that the actions of media assets in the corporate umbrella having immunity from affecting the team.

Both sides of the coin could no doubt produce interesting arguments. To me, the biggest issue with this sign is that it seems to be more focused on putting pressure on management rather than on the player; if you’re going to tamper, go with “Come Home, Steven”.

Whatever the case, I’d assume that the otherwise fantastic TSN 1050 will be more careful with stunts like these moving forward.

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  • Gary Empey

    Jeffler, Make no mistake this is tampering. The intent is to convince Stamkos to continue to hold out in his negotiations with Tampa. The fact that it is likely accidental is a strong mitigating factor.

    Is TSN responsible. Every employer is legally responsible for the actions of their employees, in the performance of their duties.

    There is a direct line from TSN 1050 to the public relation(Hockey) and Bell Media.

    Bell must now do everything in is power to stop this. It will also need to send letters of apology to the NHL and Tampa, then wait.

  • magesticRAGE

    This is real? Not a fan-made sign with a photoshopped tsn logo on it? Because whoever approved this from TSN is really stupid. I’m actually having a hard time belienving TSN would allow their brand/image on something like this.

  • magesticRAGE

    Whoa whoa whoa…let’s not just throw the “T” word around here.

    Can’t we just have someone at MLSE or Bell sweep this “incident” under the carpet and never speak of it again like: the Kaberle for Carter trade talk, the ’89 NHL draft, or Jonas Hoglund as a suitable winger.

    Wait, I’m not admitting to anything, lets just get the story straight and non legally binding.

    We can’t claim to know which Stamkos TSN1050 was referring to.

    Perhaps they were talking about my friend Larry Stamkos (He’s real BTW). What Larry lacks in skating ability he makes up for by being a great mechanic who is currently working on my dune buggy. He also plays hockey two nights a week in Oshawa. He’s not very good, but, MAYBE signing him is some kind of charity thing. We don’t know! Larry is a real person, I swear!

    Larry should be able to make it to MOST of the home games as long as his wife doesn’t have yoga and he can be home by 10pm on Tuesdays.

    In the same vein, this STEVEN Stamkos everyone seems to be fascinated with has family within the GTA -maybe they wanted MLSE to hire his father. I’m sure he is a nice fellow, and having someone with a good work ethic(and most likely a positive attitude) would be beneficial to this rebuild. We are trying to build a CULTURE people! Why wouldn’t Mr. Stamkos want to work for MLSE? I’m sure they pay reasonably well. The bigger question from all this is, “Does MLSE Hate Steven’s Father?” Consider that!

    OR, maybe there was a printing error (and this is also a real thing) and the cards were supposed to read “SING Stamkos” -Steven is a wonderful tenor and often delights Tampa reporters with his rendition of Ava Maria -off camera of course (don’t look that up). I think it would be nice if Toronto fans got to hear his melodic tones once in a while. Stop hogging his talent Tampa Bay!

    And a third explanation could be that the card was supposed to read as “the STING support Stamkos.” (You see, Sting is just Sign or Sing re-arranged…with a letter added…not reaching at all) Steven played for Sarnia which is located in Ontario. Ontario is where Toronto is. Toronto is where hometown heroes come to die. Yes, I know my argument is relying a lot on printing errors, but I don’t think many of you know the pressure of working for a printing company and having a last minute request. My theories are plausible! (Shut up)

    (I do not work for a printing company despite what I may or may not have alluded to. I apologize if I offended anyone who does and I thank you for your service to our country.)

    The “T” word should not be used lightly. I’m sure that everything is on the up-and-up at Bell/Rogers/MLSE/TSN1050. It’s not like two major telecommunication conglomerates would be incompetent or trying to boost ratings by having a local hero come home and sell advertising on said story. It’s not like they could profit off of that.

    This certainly was not a really stupid idea by TSN1050. Obviously if Steven Stamkos were to look into the stands at the ACC tonight he would first see 20 rows of vacant seats, and then a bunch of people holding up signs of some sort.

    He would then squint and think to himself, “What does that say?” as the ref prepares to drop the puck. “Sign Stamkos?” He thinks. “Do they mean me? Hmm…maybe I should sign here. Sure am glad this crowd is giving me a reference to MLSE – I better go work on my resume.”

    MLSE would also see the signs…and they would ask Mark Hunter, “Hey Mark, have you heard of this guy? Maybe we should look into it.”

    I’ve run out of satire. I really want the local boy to come home and do well, but I’m tired of all the coverage. Would it be amazing if Stamkos came here? Obviously. It’s Babcock (not local obviously, but pie in the sky) all over again, but I will be upset if TSN screwed our potential signing of Steven Stamkos with a stupid (but what everyone is thinking) card. If the league looks into it, Bell will only have itself to blame on this “technicality”. But as Leaf fans we should be used to stupid decisions.

    That’s all.

  • magesticRAGE

    This is a big stretch. If the leafs are going to be held accountable for a sign made by a totally separately managed sports entertainment company in TSN where do you draw the line. Sure they share the same corporate ownership however; completely 2 separate management groups who do not speak with or consult with one another.

    If the sign saying “sign stamkos” is deemed tampering then would you also consider the TSN panel discussing topics like “Should the leafs pursue Stamkos” etc to be tampering? its a sports news channel that has a wide variety of hockey insiders who discuss many topics including the future of pending ufa’s. If they will be held liable for every discussion broadcast about rumours or trade/ufa speculation… the leafs will be permanently punished.

    All NHL owners are very rich before they become owners and as such usually have more than one company under their ownership, flyers owner also owns Comcast, and rangers owner also owns MSG sports netwrk. Will they too be held responsible if a sports commentor on tv or radio speculates on the eventual destination of a pending UFA.

    Tampering to me is when the direct management group who has the decision making ability discusses publicly or privately stating the team has interest and will make an attempt to sign a player. MLSE has made zero statements about whether or not they even have interest in signing stamkos, for all we know maybe thats not part of the rebuild plan. Sure its in all the fans wish book but doesn’t mean the management group shares that desire. I can’t see why they wouldn’t but also I have no idea if they do… the fact there is no way to know at this stage for sure is a good sign that there was no actual tampering. Because true tampering leaves zero doubt of an organizations intentions.