After four years, over 800 articles published, and over 300,000 words written (not to mention an ungodly number of Tweets), my shift at On The Forecheck has come to an end. Tomorrow is my last day at SB Nation and on September 13th, I start my next adventure as lead Predators writer for AtoZSports Nashville (more on that later).
I have deeply enjoyed my time here at OTF, and I have so many people to thank for having the opportunity to be here. But before I list my thank you’s and say my final goodbye, I’d like to do something I don’t normally do all that often: write about my own story.
Specifically, my OTF story.
You see, the summer of 2014 was a time of great change for the Nashville Predators. The team finally parted ways with the only head coach they’d ever hired, then hired a dynamic, fresh face in his place to lead a young crop of new players. The Nashville hockey scene was saying goodbye to names like Barry Trotz, David Legwand, Patric Hornqvist, and Nick Spaling, and getting their first glimpse of names like Peter Laviolette, Filip Forsberg, James Neal, and Calle Jarnkrok.
There was a sense of renewal heading into the ‘14-15 season. Maybe even hope.
Incidentally, in July of that summer, then editors Jon Garcia and Jason Zito published a want ad on this blog, calling for writers of all types. I remember perusing the ad, thinking aloud to myself as I tried to convince myself that I didn’t deserve a shot at any of the roles listed or that I wasn’t capable of handling the job. They needed a daily links contributor (“well, I can’t be up at 5 AM every dang day trying to read dang hockey articles while my dang eyes are still closed”), a preview and recaps contributor (“I mean, I watch the dang games, but I wouldn’t know what to say and I’d probably look stupid, dangit”), moderators (“dang, I don’t like to be confrontational”), and a staff writer (“surely I need a dang PhD in something hockey related to even apply for this one, dang”).
I had been a fan of On The Forecheck ever since Dirk Hoag joined the fight to keep the team in Nashville back in 2007, and subsequently continued to be a fan of the site after those days when the team finally started producing big wins in the playoffs. I had never before pictured hockey writing as something I should be doing with my life, but I figured “what the hell, why not?” and sent my application in.
What made me decide to apply? Why did I make the leap?
I honestly have no idea, but I am so, so glad I did.
Making that leap led to one of the most fulfilling and personally gratifying part-time jobs I have ever had, and it has led to a whole new list of career opportunities for myself.
When I came on board in August of that year, I was terrified. What the hell had I gotten myself into? I’d been a fan of hockey ever since the team arrived in 1998 having also played hockey in high school. I even watched hockey before Nashville had a team (I must admit, I kind of liked Jeremy Roenick when he played for the Blackhawks in the 90s)... but who the hell am I to sit here and, you know, say words about it and then publish those words to the internet?
My first article was a Gabriel Bourque season preview. I spent many hours making sure everything was accurate, everything was worded appropriately, and that there was a good balance of cultural references, hockey analysis, and succinct writing.
Then it got published to the site! I was thrilled. And then, when the site editors didn’t immediately remove the post and revoke my publishing rights for having written something so bland and inobtrusive, I decided that maybe I could stick around.
So I did.
And then I did that about 800 more times over the next four years.
Sidebar: the thing that most writers don’t tell you is that writing itself (especially sports writing) is an unintentionally harmful practice in self-pity, and almost every published piece is full of immediate self-doubt and regret. From the moment you begin, the first sentence to weeks or even months after the piece is published, you question everything. Why didn’t I phrase that differently? What was I trying to communicate at the end there? I completely forgot to circle back to my original point. And how did I forget to mention Reason X? Or Explanation Y? And I definitely should have deleted Joke Q, that was just silly. And so on.
While not every one of my articles had this level of inquisition, most did and that leads to a lot of stressful nights and caffeine-filled mornings.
With that being said, I’d like to provide a list of what I consider my career highlights at OTF. These aren’t based on any SEO-metrics or pageview hit counts--these are just the pieces that I am particularly proud of for one reason or another:
- My attempt at making a hockey data visualization. Lol, shield your eyes.
- My visit to the Lexus Lounge made people jealous.
- That time I accidentally guaranteed that Filip Forsberg would not win the Calder.
- One of my legacy additions to the site, the Division Primers we do in the summer.
- I calculated some numbers on frequent penalty takers and the impact on their team.
- When the Preds beat the Ducks in Game 7 in 2016, I was in Gatlinburg, TN at the Park Vista Hotel. I was nervously pacing between the game on TV and the balcony overlooking the Smoky Mountains. It was one of my favorite memories watching a Predators game, mostly because of the balance between stress and serenity that I experienced while watching the game.
- I put together this whole thing on special teams in the playoffs and I don’t think any of it made sense, but here it is anyway.
- Another legacy favorite: “Here’s What Worked” was a series I started in the 2016-17 season, analyzing the positive takeaways from the previous week. I retired it after that season, but it is up for grabs if anyone wants to take it on.
- HOWFORE DOTH WE SUCKETH or that time that I wrote an article entirely based upon one twitter comment.
- I wrote about Calle Jarnkrok practicing emotions. This might be my all-time favorite piece.
- For some reason, I decided to set the website on fire for a few hours.
- I contrubuted two entries to the OTF Travel Diary: Raleigh & Boston.
- LOOK AT THESE TWEETS
- Being there for the Western Conference Championship? Yeah, that’s a highlight of my life.
- I set out to write a piece on Pekka Rinne’s journey from Game 7 loss in San Jose to winning the Western Conference and it… it gave me the feels.
- Oh and those two wins in the Stanley Cup Final? Amazing.
- I trash talked the Jets and then they beat us, but I enjoyed writing this anyway.
- Plenty of folks have been silent on the Austin Watson front, but I’m not one of them.
So anyway, I enjoyed writing all of that and I hope you enjoyed reading some of it. Hopefully you can at least appreciate the time spent into attempting to make you smile, think, laugh, or emote about hockey in some way. If I did any of those things, I think I was successful.
And now, some thank you’s are in order.
- The first thank you goes out to Dirk Hoag. He still stops by on occasion, usually to help us out with the newest version of the Super Schedule, but without his vision and dedication to this blog in its early days, we wouldn’t even have an OTF. I will never forget reading Dirk’s letter to Gary Bettman in response to Jim Balsillie “Major League-ing” our beloved hockey team. I’ve been a fan every since and have always enjoyed his objective, analysis-driven approach to writing about the Predators. Thanks, Dirk.
- Jon and Jason, thanks for giving me the chance to contribute to this community. The way I’ve managed the site is based, at least in part, on the way you handled things when I first came on board. I enjoyed having your guidance in those early days. #OfficialOnlineMedia
- All the current D&C folks: Laura, Tucker, George, Shaun, plus all the others who have taken on this role in the past. Your work to make this simple, but very, very important post every single day is always appreciated. Whether it is the middle of July or the middle of February, we can always count on reading relevant, interesting hockey links, with great added commentary. It ain’t easy, but you make it look that way. Thanks!
- Thank you to all the SB Nation folks, past and present, who help make it a great place to work. Travis, Justin, Morgan, you all are great at what you do and I’m very thankful to have worked with you.
- Thanks to our tireless moderators, musamonster and AndyAxel. You have no idea what these folks have to endure, but they endure it with class and dignity. They also make a tough job look easy.
- Thank you to all of the writers I have worked with over the years. Michael, Austin, Bobby, Kate, Eric, Rachel, Chris, Hayley, Bryant, Anish, Nick, Corey, Braden, Carson, Adam, Hunter, Alex E, and anyone else who I haven’t mentioned. This sounds cliche but it’s just true: you are the lifeblood of this site. Thank you for taking the same leap that I did. You are the reason people visit this site everyday. Keep up the good work, and thanks for being such great people to work with!
- Thanks to a couple of long time blog contributors: Caroline Davis and Chris Link. Caroline, your work is always fascinating and I hope you continue to share it with this site. I always love reading it! Chris, my first foray into the world of Predators podcasting was only possible because of the many years you put into the Predcast. I thoroughly enjoyed the time we shared on the show as well as the pleasant conversations in between. Like Caroline, your work is always appreciated (you are undoubtedly the funniest hockey writer I know) and I really hope I get to read more LinkSpeak in the future.
- Quick shout out to former OTFer Kris Martel, whose knowledge of the game and infectious personality makes the Preds media world such a hoot. Much respect to you Kris. You’ve been an inspiration to most of us crazies who want to get into the sports media game.
- Thanks to Mark Harris, who helped carry the load for a couple years. Speaking of Preds media, Mark abandoned us last year to write about golf, but he’s still around here somewhere. Probably watching Southampton get relegated.
- (Just a few more here)
- I have to give a big thank you to Dan Bradley. Dan, you graciously handed me the keys to the car when you stepped away from day-to-day editing, but before you left you made sure the gas tank was full and the tires had plenty of air. Because of your work, I came into this role set up for success: I had an energetic and talented group of writers on staff, all of which expected a lot out of their editor, and I had control of a blog that had proven its ability to communicate a real, objective, and honest viewpoint of this city and its hockey team. I tried my best to grow the team and expand our reach. I think I did that reasonably well, and you were a big reason why.
- Marya, thank you for being such a great partner to work with. Your editorial eye is second to none, as is your wit, and I appreciated both every day that we worked together. You also took on the responsibility of handling the daily links pages, which I very much did not want to do, so I am forever thankful for that. Also, the Twitter is now irrevocably yours, so do with it what you will (just don’t set it on fire).
- Finally, thanks to each and every one of the readers who laid eyes on this blog over the last four years. I hope you enjoyed your visit and I hope the content here made you come back for more. Your comments and feedback are essential to making this blog what it is. OTF is the only Predators online community with over a decade’s worth of continual members, and this is something to be proud of. Though we don’t always agree (and we often find ourselves argueeing) the tie that binds us together is the community we’ve surrounded ourselves with. So, thanks for making it what it is.
Now for a final goodbye. Except for not really.
As I mentioned, I am going to be the lead Preds writer for AtoZSports Nashville, so you can certainly keep up with my work there. OTF has partnered with Zach and Austin and their crew for a couple years now in various ways—you could say we’ve felt a certain kinship to their no-nonsense approach to sports talk. I do hope you will stop by to see the kind of content I think I can bring to their platform. I am extremely excited about it and I think you’ll like it.
Having said that, I will miss writing about hockey for you on this blog and I’ll think very fondly of my time here. I’ve no idea where things will go from here, but for now... it’s time to go.
My taxi’s here, as it were.
(Shit, everything comes back to a Tame Impala song for me, doesn’t it?)
Ok, Kevin, you take it from here.
I can face the unknown
Yes, I must
If I fail, I don’t care
(Now let’s do this right)
There’s so much
But it’s time