Kevin Hayes. Dec 4, 2023; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; St. Louis Blues right wing Kevin Hayes (12) awaits a face off against the Vegas Golden Knights during the first period at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

There’s an incredible amount of drama in the hockey world over a trade between the Philadelphia Flyers and Anaheim Ducks. That trade Monday saw the Flyers send Boston College forward Cutter Gauthier, their first-round draft pick in 2022 (fifth overall) to the Ducks for defenseman Jamie Drysdale and a 2025 second-round draft pick.

After that, Philadelphia general manager Daniel Brière said he made the deal because Gauthier refused to meet with Flyers’ executives and insisted he wouldn’t play for the team. And that led to a number of reports on why. That included one particular note from Anthony SanFilippo, of the Crossing Broad website and the Snow The Goalie podcast, which linked this to former Flyer and current St. Louis Blues forward Kevin Hayes:

In and of itself, that would have kicked up some sparks. But that went further still, thanks to the coverage of this from Paul Bissonnette and Ryan Whitney of Barstool Sports’ Spittin’ Chiclets podcast (notably, Bissonnette is also an NHL on TNT analyst). Here’s some of their initial commentary on this, including Whitney relaying comments from Hayes:

Hayes responded on Instagram as well:

And in comments to St. Louis media Tuesday, Hayes went even further, saying he’d received death threats and references to his brother Jimmy (also a pro hockey player)’s death in 2021:

Meanwhile, Bissonnette in particular has been on quite the Twitter run on this, posting fake “source” reports seemingly to denigrate SanFilippo’s comments:

(The actual quote there from Flyers’ head coach Tortorella was “a hole in the wall.” For reference.)

As Crossing Broad’s Kyle Pagan noted Monday, though, Spittin’ Chiclets has previously cited SanFilippo’s work:

There’s a lot to unpack in this situation. It’s understandable why Flyers’ fans are incensed about a player initially saying he was excited to join their organization, then seemingly doing everything possible to avoid doing that (and with that being possible thanks to players still in the NCAA ranks having some more non-NHL options than others). And yes, while this has been compared by many to the Eric Lindros holdout in 1991-92 (which actually worked out far better for the team he held out on), Crossing Broad’s Kevin Kinkead was correct to note Tuesday that Lindros told the Quebec Nordiques pre-draft he would never play for them thanks to a feud with team owner Marcel Aubut and was chosen anyway, while Gauthier showed public initial interest in coming to Philadelphia and then walked that back. So it makes sense that there’s some anger from Flyers fans.

With that said the targets for that anger seem at least somewhat misplaced. For one, this certainly shouldn’t be leading to death threats for Hayes or to people bringing up his brother’s tragic passing. Even if it is presumed that SanFilippo’s initial report on Hayes encouraging Gauthier to do this was completely correct, that’s not a reasonable response. This is sports and a game.

And this is part of a player empowerment era that’s taking off in the NHL (after having been previously seen in greater force in the NBA and NFL). And the Flyers got a young, promising defenseman in Drysdale (he’s 21 and was taken sixth overall in 2020) and a future second-round pick in return for Gauthier. And while that trade can’t be fully evaluated until we see how those players develop, it certainly doesn’t look terrible for Philadelphia right now. Fans being upset that a prospect doesn’t like their team the way they do (and that he changed his public tune on that team) is understandable, but that escalating into death threats for a player from another franchise who is only reportedly linked to this is a bit much.

It’s also worth keeping in mind just how limited SanFilippo’s report was. He was relaying comments from a Flyers’ organizational source that they believed Hayes was involved here. That carries absolutely zero proof of Hayes’ involvement and should not have led to fans attacking Hayes. It did, but that’s not necessarily on SanFilippo. There can absolutely be a debate here on if this was significant enough information to justify relaying it from an anonymous team source (a much wider discussion), especially given that source’s organizational bias and the protection anonymity provides them from blowback. However, the internal organizational belief on why Gauthier made this decision is notable, regardless of whether it is why he actually made that move or not.

And there should be some discussion of the way that Spittin’ Chiclets talked about and amplified this. Bissonnette and Whitney are, of course, free to comment on any hockey story they want, just as we are. And the language and vulgarity here are not new for their approach (again, remarkable considering that Bissonette is a pundit on a national rightsholder in addition to a podcast host, but everyone involved seems okay with that for now).

And the Spittin’ Chiclets hosts certainly have NHL sources. And they have impacted team decisions. And it was notable for Whitney to get a Hayes comment here. But the Spittin’ Chiclets coverage of this came with very little context or nuance. And that’s helped create a whole lot of yelling about SanFilippo and Hayes that isn’t necessarily productive or justified. Also, as noted by Crossing Broad, they’ve made some missteps of their own in coverage here:

The overall takeaway is that this should probably be a little less intense. Yes, Gauthier upset Flyers fans with this move. But the team got what looks like decent value in return, and this is far from the first player-empowerment move in hockey or in North American professional sports in general. And none of this should be leading to death threats for other players or to the kinds of attacks we’re seeing on media members reporting on it. This happened, and it’s notable, but it’s just sports.

[Crossing Broad]

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.