Well, folks, this is it—my final article for On The Forecheck. I don’t want to carry on forever, but I’ll carry on for a little bit.
I’ll start at the beginning—I moved to the Nashville area in 2009 from Bowling Green, KY. I’d been there since 1992. Before that, I was in the Bay Area of California. I knew what hockey was when I was younger because Wayne Gretzky was on Saturday Night Live, I had a “Values Book” about Tenacity featuring Maurice Richard, and I’d seen The Mighty Ducks, but I moved out of California just as the Sharks arrived in San Jose. That was literally the extent of my knowledge of the sport.
But when I moved to Tennessee in 2009, my wife told me that hockey games were fun and we should go to some. Based on the temperature of the rink, it seemed like she was probably right. I watched the 2010 playoffs on TV because I had a very good friend in Chicago cheering for the Blackhawks and wanted to talk trash to him. After that, I was hooked. I’ve never kept my lack of knowledge about the team pre-2009 a secret, but I’ve done my best to catch up.
Our family expanded to four with the births of our children and hockey was much easier to watch on TV than in person, but we still tried to get to games when we could. But our family’s love for the Predators reached a new pinnacle with the 2017 playoff run. One of my wife’s very best friends always seemed to have an inside scoop on the team, and she told us it was from following On The Forecheck. We signed up for Twitter and followed along.
But after the Cup run ended, my wife saw a “Help Wanted” sign in front of the OTF House and told me I should apply. My goal was to be a Writer, but I wound up as a Daily Links Contributor. So, I contributed links every Friday for YEARS. I also gained a little more confidence in my writing by pairing up with Kate R for a few articles. Eventually, I was contributing articles on my own. Alex Daugherty sent me out to cover the Preds Community Days at the outset of the 2017-18 season and I somehow managed to interview P.K. Subban, Kevin Fiala, Yannick Weber, and Nick Bonino.
When the 2019-2020 season rolled around, I was added to the Gameday Coverage Crew and started covering games in-person in an official capacity...and I never really looked back from there.
My favorite articles have been:
The one where I traded Sidney Crosby to Nashville in exchange for Matt Irwin and Yannick Weber.
The one where Kate and I pointed out how bad Cody McLeod was on the ice.
The one where Bryan and I wrote about the JOFA line.
The ones where I talked about how cool Yannick Weber is. (There were a lot of these.)
The time Bryan and I stayed up all night after Pekka Rinne’s goalie goal to write an article that covered ALL goalie goals (with video) so when people were looking for goalie goals the next morning, they’d find the most complete and up-to-date article possible.
The one where I interviewed the guys from 7 Element.
The one where I talked to Karl Taylor about Eeli Tolvanen and Mathieu Olivier.
The one where I talked to Karl Taylor about Tanner Jeannot.
My favorite memory was probably getting to talk to Jordin Tootoo about Tanner Jeannot in advance of the Stadium Series.
But I’ve also had the opportunity to work with a lot of awesome people:
First, Alex Daugherty was my sage when I joined and was very good about telling me to write with more confidence and authority.
Kate R, who started at the same time as me, was my earliest writing partner, shared my unique sense of humor, and helped me understand how statistics could help me understand the game through a different lens. She’s also an incredible editor and is a lot of the reason my articles make sense. Of course, she’s also a wonderful and understanding boss.
Bryan Bastin was some dude with a weird twitter handle (RIP ProjPatSummitt) who seemed to have a burning desire to write about hockey and talk about Disney princess movie soundtracks (Girldad life, right?). So, we wrote an article together and, next thing you know, he was my colleague. But, even better, he was my friend.
Rachel K, despite being unforgivably short, has been a joy to work with and has helped me understand more about the game of hockey than she probably knows.
Eric Dunay—I say it EVERY TIME I TALK ABOUT HIM, but this guy should probably be hired by a team or a national outlet to cover prospects. Whenever I start to explore the depth of his knowledge about prospects or potential draft picks, I realize that he’s just walking around with an in-ground pool’s worth of information on hundreds of hockey players out there in the world. Absolutely amazing.
Nick Morgan—OTF podcast partner and the Waluigi to my Wario. I don’t know if you could tell we had a good time when we recorded podcasts together, but I assure you we had even better conversations after we stopped recording.
Ann K—If you want to know the ideal person to go to development camp with and talk about the future of the team, she’s it. I expect big things from her in the future.
Bobby Misey—If you need to scolded for calling a jersey a sweater, give him a call.
Eamon Smith—What an incredible young talent! And I’ll share this story. After the Stadium Series I realized I’d have to walk back to the Music City Center. Eamon was in the same boat, albeit with a much younger and more in-shape group of friends, but abandoned them to walk back with me and didn’t think twice about it. I’m looking forward to his future career.
Last, but not least, Jeff Middleton—Jeff is my OTF son. He’s not actually my son, but I’m old enough to be his dad. Jeff is, at 18, everything 42-year-old me wishes I was when I was 18. Great writer, fresh approach to sports writing, both feet firmly in the water of writing about a LOT of teams (and sports), and headed off to college with a clear idea of what he wants to get out of it. When he’s a nationally known sports writer at some point in the next ten years, I’ll point to his articles and tell whoever’s around, “That’s my boy!”
Of course, I can’t sign off without mentioning my wife. She’s the one who encouraged me to start down this road at 38 years old and she’s the one who’s supported me the entire way, even when it was inconvenient. Everyone out there would do well to find someone as wonderful and incredible as she is, but this one’s already off the market.
That’s it for me. I’m gonna sign off now and hope that you enjoyed some of what I’ve put out there about the Predators. I hope you’ll catch me down the road wherever it takes me.