It is with a supremely bittersweet heart that I tell you this will be my last article with On the Forecheck. I've accepted an offer for a job that will make hockey blogging next to impossible, and my new schedule will not be conducive to being able to provide you the quality content on the regular basis you've come to expect and, frankly, deserve. Dan will be assuming control effective immediately.
I made Nashville my permanent home just shy of two years ago with the intention of being close to the team I was covering in a city I adored, while setting up a life and career here. Since 2011, this is most time I've spent in one place and believe me when I say moving here was one of the best decisions I've ever made.
But as anyone who's made a sudden decision to start fresh can tell you, it wasn't easy. I won't go overboard with details here, but years from now I'll be reminiscing how I slept on the floor of my apartment for the first several months because I couldn't afford a bed.
Writing about my favorite sport has become more than a passion over the last several years. At times, it was the only thing that got me through a soul-sucking job (where I felt useless to society) and kept me sane through innumerable hours spent filing out job applications and several failed interviews. The hope was to find something that could run concurrently with OTF, but when I finally found what I was looking for I realized that wasn't going to happen. It's going to blow to give that up, but I can't refuse a better future for myself to essentially argue on the Internet for beer money.
It really may sound over the top but running this site was one of the biggest parts of my life until now, and it will be sorely missed.
The following paragraphs are lots of thanks and gushing for all those that have helped over the years, so if you aren't wanting an Academy Award speech, feel free to scroll down to the next bolded marker:
First, I'd like to profusely thank Dirk Hoag for bringing me on as a contributor what feels like a lifetime ago. When I shot him an email to occasionally spout hockey nonsense, not only did I have no idea what I was doing, but I had no idea it would eventually lead to running a website I'd followed since college. It's cheesy and grandiose, but I wouldn't be where I am right now if that didn't happen.
It's funny, I almost decided not to send my audition piece because I thought there was no way I was a good enough to write here. In the bowls of the Breslin Center (sorry, Mr. Big Blue) in between shooting high school basketball championship games, I bit the bullet and sent with maybe 20 minutes before our agreed deadline. That email changed my life. Don't ever talk yourself out of putting yourself out there or taking a chance on something new. The worst you'll hear is no, and the pros vastly outweigh the cons.
Tack on Travis Hughes to that profuse thanks, as well. Even though he's a Flyers fan, the dude cares so deeply about making SB Nation NHL a place you crave to read, and this place would be in disarray were it not for his unyielding help whenever I had questions about general goings-on.
Thanks to all of Nashville's #OfficialOnlineMedia: Josh Cooper, Adam Vingan, Jim Diamond, Robby Stanley, Sam Page, Jeremy Gover, Mark Harris, Justin Bradford, J.R. Lind, James Nelson, Teresa Walker, Eric Stromgren, and anyone/everyone else who has given time to generate pixels about this hockey team. Also thanks to Crazy Charlie Saunier and Greg Moshopoulos for being great to interact with on Twitter and promote Dan and the site so much on the radio.
Don't forget the esteemed Daniel Lavender of Admirals Roundtable, who not only provided this site and staff with valuable knowledge on the prospects in Milwaukee, but who has one of the strongest GIF games on Twitter. All the Dean Winchester thumbs up GIFs to you, my friend.
I also can't leave without expressing my sincerest gratitude to the entire Nashville Predators front office, staff and players:
Kevin Wilson, Alexis Tahara and Greg Ramirez never hesitated to acquiesce to any and all of our requests. (Within reason, of course.) Even in a small market, they went above and beyond to make us feel welcome both at and away from Bridgestone Arena. Huge thank you for that. And the gingers Tom Willis and Brooks Bratten are two of the nicest guys you'll ever meet, it was a joy to banter with them at practices and between scrums. Big thanks to Kristen Finch and Snow Rose for helping us with the Preds Foundation, as well.
Special thanks to Pete Weber, Willy Daunic, Terry Crisp, and Stu Grimson, who were always open and willing to converse about anything. Filip Forsberg for being exactly the model human being you think he is. Pekka Rinne for not only making me feel shorter than I've ever felt in my life, but answering every question with a smile and just being a joy to be around.
Special, special thanks for fellow Hilltopper John Russel, who invited me to shoot my first Preds game way back when I was a fledgling photojournalist at Western Kentucky. It's one thing to help a kid from your alma matter get a better look at an aspect of sports photography he's interested in pursuing. It's entirely another to repeatedly offer a spot at the game, along with almost free rein of the arena.
Also thank you to David Poile, Peter Laviolette, Brett Wilson, Tom Cigarran, Jeff Cogen, Phil Housley, Kevin McCarthy, Dean Evason, "Krazy" Kyle Hankins, and everyone else under the aforementioned umbrella of management and staff. This list could go on forever.
Blanket thanks to all the hockey bloggers in general. This has been very Nashville centric, but all of you out there have made me want to be a better writer and cover this sport in the way it deserves. There are way, way too many of you to count, and some I haven't ever even talked to before. But know if we've interacted on Twitter or in person, you have my sincere gratitude.
To anyone I missed, I do apologize but thank you as well.
TL;DR: Lots of thanks to a lot of people.
Last but not least, major thanks to everyone on staff at OTF, past and present:
Jason for being an awesome partner to work with, a great friend and drinking buddy. We were lucky enough to be able to intertwine those three things together. Dan for having such a strong passion not only about this site, but about the team and covering it in general. There are few people in the world who are as good of a person as he is, so believe me when I tell you the site is in good hands.
To George, Jeremy, Alex, Anish, Marya, Bryant, Caroline, Zeke, Braden, Nick, Kris, Link, Rebekah: thank you for all the hard work each and every one of you put into the this website. Fans of the Predators are extremely lucky to have you investing your time and minds to further discuss this team. Words can't really express the gratitude I have for you all, so those will have to do.
Finally, to the loyal or occasional On the Forecheck reader: thank you. Thank you for reading what we published, retweeting our ridiculous play by plays, sharing on Facebook, and commenting on the site. Projecting into an empty space would make our writing feel hollow and pointless, but your continued viewership and engagement made it all worth it. Not all of us see eye to eye, but we all share a similar passion for Gold Team, and it's been a pleasure being able to bring you content that hopefully allowed you to gain a deeper understanding of the team and the sport.
Don't ever stop wanting to learn more, and always ask why and how. Why is this team winning? How are they losing? Never be satisfied with the status quo, whether that's the team telling you to be happy with points gained from losing 12 out of 13 games in overtime, or other people saying it doesn't matter how a team wins as long as they get points.
I hate that I won't be able to give provide coverage for you as the playoffs near, but after some time to decompress I'll be back in the comments section with you all when I can. But give me a follow on Twitter, and we'll continue the conversation until then.
I'll leave you with one final song and one last picture of Buster. So long everyone, and thank you, thank you, thank you for keeping me going the last few years. I truly appreciate it, and will miss all of you.