Standing Behind the Michigan Daily
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
We've been following closely the battle between the Michigan Daily and the Kitchener Rangers, as most everyone in college hockey has. But even moreso because Michigan Daily writer Matt Slovin wrote a number of articles for us at CHN last year, and proved himself to be an excellent reporter and writer, as have numerous other Michigan Daily writers who worked for us over the years.
To catch you up, if you don't know, the Michigan Daily — the student-run newspaper at the University of Michigan — ran an article, citing a source, saying that Michigan recruit Jacob Trouba, a defenseman who was taken in the first round of June's NHL Draft, had received an offer of hundreds of thousands of dollars from Kitchener, an OHL team that holds Trouba's major junior rights.
Major Junior teams are not allowed to give payments like this to players, according to their own rules. However, it is considered a given in hockey circles that this is done, at least by a portion of teams. But despite best efforts, including by us at CHN, to investigate these claims, most recently when Charlie Coyle skipped out on BU to go to the Quebec League, no one has ever gone on the record to back these claims, until now.
Even though Slovin's sources are anonymous, they are at least on the record. We'd all love to know that source, especially Kitchener.
Kitchener filed a libel suit against the Michigan Daily and Slovin, claiming that the allegations were false. Let's see how it plays out.
Kitchener is going to have a very tough case. I'm unfamiliar with Canadian law, but even if Kitchener wins its case in Canada — which is unlikely to begin with — it would then have to get it transferred to the U.S. system. Assuming that the Kitchener Rangers are considered "public figures," The United States and state of Michigan Supreme Court standards for proving libel are pretty high. Kitchener needs to prove that the Michigan Daily, and Matt Slovin, knowing published false information AND, in so doing, caused financial damage to Kitchener.
This will essentially never happen, meaning this will be nothing more than a nuisance case.
Thankfully for Slovin, who is just a young reporter with no money of his own, the Michigan Daily has its own attorneys behind him, and he has little to worry about. Should make for nothing more than an interesting experience.
The bigger issue will linger, however ... What is the OHL doing to lure players there?
In the battle between the NCAA and Major Junior, college teams and coaches have long claimed that they are hamstrung by NCAA regulations. Major Junior teams can reach players at a younger age. They can also continue to "recruit" after the players have already committed to, or enrolled in, college.
But if you throw under-the-table payments into the mix, it makes it that much more difficult. Especially when the powers that be in the CHL system look the other way.
So that is pretext to this entire article. Consequently, the entire U.S. college infrastructure — coaches, fans, colleges, and so on — are rooting for the Michigan Daily, and perhaps even inviting this lawsuit in order to shine a light on what's been going on. Kitchener should be careful for what it wishes for.
Then again, let's assume Kitchener knows this too, and knows its low odds of winning a suit. More likely than not, its lawsuit is just a way of keeping the PR battle going. That makes Slovin and The Daily nothing more than a sideshow in the never-ending hockey turf war between the CHL and NCAA.
We have no inside information on Slovin's reporting, but we'll continue to stand by him based upon what we already know of him, and our experience with the Michigan Daily, until proven otherwise.
For more, see here.