Toronto Sun columnist Steve Simmons’ claim in print last week that former Leafs’ forward Phil Kessel ate a hot dog from the same vendor almost every day has sparked widespread derision, with Keith Olbermann blasting Simmons twice  and Pension Plan Puppets exposing how geography made Simmons’ account highly improbable. Simmons initially remained largely silent in the wake of the criticism, only snidely saying that hockey insiders agreed with him in a weekend notes column, but he spoke to Dave Naylor on Toronto’s TSN Radio 1050 Wednesday evening and gave his side of the story. Simmons told Naylor that he stands by the claim about Kessel’s hot dog purchasing habits, but he put the stand in question in the wrong part of the city thanks to a miscommunication between him and his source.

“Six months ago was the first time I’d heard about Phil Kessel popping out for his afternoon hot dog,” Simmons said, saying that the information was believable at that time and that the Sun considered stationing a photographer near the stand (but never actually did that). He said the story came to mind again last Wednesday night in the wake of Kessel’s trade to the Penguins, as he prepared to pen a column following his work on TSN’s free agency coverage, but when he checked with his source, the source confused a question about the hot dog stand’s location for a question about the source’s own location.

“I’m trying to remember where this hot dog stand was,” Simmons said. “I called my contact who had given me the information, he sees Kessel out there all the time getting his hot dog. …He thought I meant ‘where are you located’? My question was ‘where’s the hot dog stand,’ in my mind at least.”

Simmons said that his source gave him his own location, Front Street and Blue Jays Way. An editor at the Sun knew there were no hot dog stands there and changed it to Front’s intersection with John Street, which is reasonably nearby and does have hot dog stands. Indeed, enterprising journalists quizzed the vendors there over the last week to try and see if Simmons’ story was accurate. They had no luck, though, and Simmons told Naylor that’s because he got the location wrong thanks to this communication breakdown, with the actual hot dog stand in question being “in the College Street area by Bay,” very close to Kessel’s condo. Simmons insisted that the rest of the story is true, though.

“The fact that he went for the hot dogs is 100 per cent true,” Simmons said. “I’ll stand by that column for the rest of my career.”

There are still big questions about this, though. For one, why does a source who lives at Front and Blue Jays Way have such knowledge of Kessel’s eating habits? Perhaps the source works near College and Bay, but that still makes it curious that he saw this regularly and no one else appears to have. As Jesse Spector noted, it’s bizarre that no one’s ever tweeted a photo of this:

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.

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