Well, folks… it has been a hell of a ride, but in the words of REO Speedwagon, I think it’s time for me to fly.
A little over three years ago, I wasn’t in a great place mentally. I had beaten stage 3C colorectal cancer but wasn’t able to go back to work due to the side effects of my treatments. I was struggling to find a purpose to help pull myself out of that funk.
I’ve been a hockey fan all of my life and enjoyed talking about the game with friends and folks who I was interacting with on Twitter and noticed many people were talking about the prospects of the Vancouver Canucks, but nobody in this market was really “covering” the Utica Comets. Sure, we would see some reports about who was scoring goals etc, but I didn’t really see anyone reporting on the team who was actually watching the games on a regular basis.
That was it… that was going to be my way of finding purpose and giving myself something to focus on.
I reached out to JD Burke, who was the managing editor at CanucksArmy at the time and asked him for some advice on how to get people interested in coming to read my work at the blog that I was intending to start up. I told him my idea of watching the Comets games and doing simple post-game reports to keep people in the loop with what was going on in Utica.
Burke asked me if I was seriously going to commit to watching 76 games of AHL hockey on what was a horrifically poor AHL LIVE platform at the time and when I told him that I intended to do just that, he told me to leave it with him for the summer and he would see if he could find a home for me with CanucksArmy for the following season.
Fast forward a couple of months and Burke messaged me with an offer to write Utica Comets post-game reports. I was completely stunned to be offered a job with CA. They had always been known as a site that leaned heavily on analytics and with a serious case of chemo brain, that is an area where I lack pretty much any sort of knowledge. I wasn’t going to be like the rest of the writers at CA, but I was hoping that I would bring something of value to those who took the time to read my work.
At the time, I had no idea that writing for CanucksArmy would open the door for me to go to Vancouver’s development camp showcase at Rogers Arena and cover the game from the press box. I had no clue that the first player that I would get the privilege of interviewing would be the recently drafted Quinn Hughes.
I was able to interview a few more players that day, as well as Comets GM Ryan Johnson. I met media members Jeff Paterson, Jon Abbott, Mira Laurence, and Iain McIntyre that day as well.
During my time with CanucksArmy, I have been very fortunate to have attended two training camps, a development camp, a player’s first NHL game, and have spoken with many players and management types involved with the club. For those experiences, I will be forever grateful.
To Quinn Hughes, Petrus Palmu, Kole Lind, Tanner MacMaster, and Ryan Johnson… to Jagger Dirk, Ashton Sautner, Guillaume Brisebois, Thatcher Demko, and Zack MacEwen; and to Mikey DiPietro, Jake Kielly, Mitch Eliot, Josh Teves, Brogan Rafferty, Justin Bailey, Jalen Chatfield, Jonah Gadjovich, Reid Boucher, Richard Bachman, Tyler Graovac, Francis Perron, Lukas Jasek, Trent Cull, Ashwin Patel, Travis Green, Robert Esche, and Jim Benning, who I have had the privilege of speaking with, I can’t thank you enough for giving a regular Joe like me some of your time.
To Vancouver media members Jeff Paterson, Satiar Shah, Matt Sekeres, Blake Price, Ben Kuzma, Iain McIntyre, Brendan Batchelor, Corey Hirsch, Patrick Johnston, Rick Dhaliwal, Scott Rintoul, Dan Murphy, Thomas Drance, Jawn Jang, Jon Abbott, JD Burke, Andrew Wadden, Mira Laurence, Steve Ewen and the late Jason Botchford… thank you for making me feel welcomed.
Thanks also go out to the four managing editors that I have had during my time at CanucksArmy. JD Burke for hiring me and giving me a chance to sink or swim in this business, Ryan Biech for really just letting me do my own thing, Jackson McDonald for standing up for me when I was laid off from CanucksArmy and most recently, David Quadrelli for bringing me back into the fold. Thanks to Chris Faber as well… dude gave me a weekly place to talk Comets hockey and didn’t put a muzzle on me, no matter how much I talked.
To Chris Brumwell, Ben Brown, Stephanie Maniago, Ryan Nicholas, and Derek Jory with the Canucks, I thank you for arranging the time for me to speak with players and giving me the opportunity to write for the team’s website.
To Rain, Scoop, and Matt… thank you for giving me a platform on the Utica airwaves and making me feel like a part of your community. To Joe Roberts, Phil Lavanco, and Lindsay Mogle, thank you for setting up ways for me to speak with Comets players and coaches. We had to get creative at times and I want you to know how much I appreciate your efforts on my behalf.
To the MacEwen/Affleck families… thank you for welcoming me in and making me feel like part of your family. You will never know how much it meant to have you invite me to sit with you and share the experience of TheBigFella’s first NHL game. How perfect was it that he got his first NHL point in that game? Craig gave me my first chance to write the kind of story that I wanted to write and Clifford’s interview was the last one that I did… I promise that interview will be still be written once I can get through transcribing it without breaking up.
That is what this has been all about for me. I came into this line of work after having never done any sort of real writing in my life. I needed a purpose and covering the Utica Comets became that purpose for me. Those experiences have definitely lifted me out of a bad place and now it is time for me to turn my focus elsewhere.
For the last three years, it has been all Comets, all the time for me. I have been all-in on covering the team and I have been rewarded with some fantastic experiences. But I have dedicated an incredible amount of my time to writing about the Comets and I have come to the realization that I can’t continue to do so going forward. If I am going to do this, I need to be all-in to do my best work.
Life has changed in many ways since I took the job with CA. I have lost three of my biggest supporters to death far too soon, I have become a grandfather and want to spend time with my grandson. I have young nephews whose hockey games I would like to go see, and my mental health is in a much better place than it was when I started this.
I took a chance and stepped well outside of my comfort zone and the experiences that followed were well worth it. I worked hard, I dedicated myself and I put in the work. I was consistent, I was honest, and wrote what I believed. Not everybody agreed with the way that I went about my business, but I can say that I am proud of how I conducted myself and how I covered the team. I am proud that I committed to covering “all 76 games” in my first year and by the time of this writing, I have covered every game that the Comets have played since… save for February 26th of this year when my grandson was born.
I am proud of the work that I have done and I appreciate all of you who have given me a platform or have taken the time to read my work. At the end of the day, I wouldn’t have been able to have all of these experiences if you weren’t reading my work, so thank you.
Life is short, if you are passionate about something, get after it!