The other night after the game against the Hurricanes, a bunch of us headed out for a few drinks, and a friendly face approached as I headed out the door.
“Love the blog,” he said. “Keep up the good work.”
“I will,” I said.
OK, so maybe that wasn’t completely true. Because what I didn’t say then is those drinks were not just to commemorate the end of another mid-season hockey game, but to cap off my last game covering the Rangers.
When you consider all the ground we cover on this blog, I fully accept the news of me leaving the beat is relatively insignificant. And yet given the remarkable support this little sliver of cyberspace has received since its debut, the readers here at least deserve an explanation why I’m no longer going to be a part of it.
After 12 years at The Journal News — the last three of which were spent writing for the most devoted fans in sports — I am leaving to pursue a career in another sport I love, as a senior editor at “GolfDigest.com”:http://www.golfdigest.com/. The timing of the move isn’t great, and I admit it comes with a tinge of sadness. But it’s also an opportunity I’m fortunate to have, and a new phase of my life I’m eager to enter.
The good news, though, is this blog isn’t going anywhere. And appropriately enough, it will be Rick Carpiniello, the guy whose NHL column I devoured as a hockey fan and who went on to become one of my best friends in journalism, who will be returning to help steer this blog. If anything, it turns out I was just keeping Carpie’s seat warm for him.
As for me, this isn’t just any job I’m leaving, since it’s actually the only real job I’ve ever had. My first story for the paper that is now The Journal News was about a high school football game the fall after I graduated from college. Back then there was no internet version of the paper — actually, I didn’t even have a computer — and the story I wrote was only buried inside the sports section of the paper’s northern edition. But it was still ample reason for my girlfriend and I to hop in my Nissan Sentra and drive 30 minutes to a coffee shop in northern Westchester, where I bought a stack of papers that all magically had my byline in it.
That girlfriend is now my wife and the mother of my two boys, and I’ve since been fortunate enough to write hundreds, maybe even thousands of stories about everything from the Masters and British Open to the National Hockey League
(As a fitting aside, my first Rangers assignment was the day before John Muckler took over as the team’s coach after the 1998 Olympic break. I was the only reporter at Rye Playland that day, and I clearly didn’t know what I was doing. Enter Adam Graves, who noticed the clueless look on my face, told me to follow him into the locker room, and then proceeded to give me everything I needed for my story. I wish I could cover his jersey retirement ceremony next week, if only to thank him for that characteristic display of grace).
When I took over the Rangers beat in the fall of 2006, I was skeptical that there would be much of an appetite for my occasionally offbeat musings about hockey. Millions of hits and tens of thousands of comments later, this blog has been one of the most intensive but gratifying ventures of my career.
I will miss it for all the reasons you’d expect: the beauty and drama of the games, the spirited give-and-take with readers, the daily window into the most impressive but most humble athletes on earth. And I’ll miss it for reasons you probably wouldn’t think of, like the mornings after games, when I’d sit down at the breakfast table and tell my 3 1/2 year old son Charlie about everything I witnessed the night before.
When I told Charlie I was no longer going to cover the Rangers, his first reaction was tears. He has a Rangers calendar on his wall, and a Jaromir Jagr stick leaning against his garage, and he’s been fortunate enough to tag along with his old man to the occasional practice (even scarier, some of his favorite nighttime reading is from the stack of NHL media guides I have in my home office. Honestly, it was his idea). At that point, he figured his intimate connection to hockey was disappearing. But I didn’t see it that way
“Charlie,” I said. “This means you and I can start going to games together.”
Amidst all the inviting prospects that come with a new career, that’s one I’ve enjoyed thinking about. I haven’t been to an NHL game as a fan since Wayne Gretzky still had a Rangers jersey tucked into the side of his pants. And yet the next time you see me at the Garden, I’ll probaby have at least one little boy at my side and the beverage of my choice in my hands (my writing might suggest otherwise, but that’s actually off-limits when you’re on the job).
I’ve made no secret of my affection for the game as both a player and a spectator. Hockey has been in my blood since I first wore a pair of skates at age 3 and began twirling around the small pond in our backyard, and that’s not going to change even as professionally my focus shifts back from ice to grass. I will continue to play, continue to watch, and continue to be a fan of the fine work of the other people who cover this game, many of whom have become good friends.
Maybe I won’t be here to chime in on a regular basis. But I’ll always be able to savor the time that I did. And for that, I owe all of you a debt of thanks.