Thursday, April 1, 2010

Farewell (April Fools!)

NOTE: I don't know if I caught too many people but it's now after noon and this was an April Fools gag. I figured I'd try to carry on the tradition from last year when we had a pretty elaborate ruse implying that the Smokies were moving to Campbell River.

After doing that there was no way people would buy something that big again... but I figured something like this was at least somewhat believable. I've had a few messages saying they'll really miss me or wishing me well so I do appreciate that. Sorry for the trick.

Well I'm not going to England. I hope no one is disappointed, but with Laura in the middle of her school program I don't think she'd have been too psyched about that! If I did move sometime it'd have to be in BC and hey it's hard to top the Kootenays. I'm headed to spring camp this weekend and looking forward to seeing what could be some exciting additions to an already deep line-up. I can't guarantee I'll be here forever, but I certainly love the gig and have no plans to take off.

This is a post I've sort of been dreading over the past couple of weeks as things were hanging in the air. After three seasons with the Smoke Eaters I have really started to consider this area home and couldn't imagine not being part of the 2010-11 season. However, I regret to say I won't be returning as the play by play voice of the Smokies next season.

I can't really get into too much detail now except to say I've been offered and accepted a job to go and work in the UK for the Elite Ice Hockey League. The sport is really growing there. Most hockey fans would probably remember that Theo Fleury played in league a couple of years back for Belfast. The league is growing and the sport is growing. It's exciting to be part of something where I'll be able to hopefully introduce hockey to new fans every day. Plus at the same time I'll be able to experience living in a new culture and exploring that part of the world. I fell in love with it on a two week vacation a few years back. I never thought an opportunity like this would come up, but I have to jump at it.

In a way I have no idea what I'm getting into. I've done my homework but it's a totally different world for hockey over there. The unknown is also very exciting as much as it is of course also sad to be leaving the BCHL behind.

When I moved out here I have to admit I knew basically nothing about this league. Some would tell you I still don't! I've since come to realize (in comparing it to what I saw in Ontario) just how lucky we are to have the quality of Junior A hockey that we do.

To me at the time it was just an opportunity to explore BC and to call hockey. That's the job I've been dreaming of since I was old enough to talk. You just have to ask my parents and neighbours in Ottawa about the countless hours they'd have to put up with me broadcasting fake games on the back yard rink or in the street... or just calling the action on my Sega Genesis. I had a taste of what this could be like in college and in Owen Sound, but Trail is really where I first got to live that dream.

For that I have to thank Rudy for hiring me and Mountain FM in general for putting up with the initial bumps in the road. I think we've made some huge strides in our sports coverage over my 3 years here. In addition to a great relationship with the Smoke Eaters we now have a nightly sports talk show and are official media partners of the KIJHL. We have more sports news and coverage than you'll get in a big city... unless they happen to have an all sports format. I hope that's a legacy I can leave here and that Mountain FM can build on even with me moving on. I don't want to start mentioning people at the station by name because everyone has been so supportive. I don't regret a second of my time working there.

I also got to meet my girlfriend Laura here and because of that I'll always be very fond of the Kootenays! Plus I'll have to make a lot of return visits as well.

As for the Smokies, I've been so honoured to become part of Trail's amazing hockey legacy. It's one thing to take a walk through the Hall of Memories and another thing entirely to have the chance to get to know a hockey hero like Norm Lenardon personally... and yet another thing entirely to get to be the voice of a team so rich in tradition. I've loved every minute of it.

The fans in Trail may not be the loudest, but they are probably the smartest fans in the league. I want to thank everyone who has stopped me during my walks around the rink to chat. You can learn more than any book will teach you about the game by just listening to what those fans standing on the rail have to say every week. So many people here I would consider friends (I don't want to single anyone out) and I hope they would say the same about me... and would welcome me back for future visits!

I don't know where to begin or end in discussing how well the organization treated me. From Tom and the executive to the coaching staff to the players I always felt like my work was respected and valued. They deserve all the success in the world. I'd say there is no classier man behind the bench of any BCHL club than Jim Ingram, and that's not a shot at anyone else...

I'm already dragging this out way too long. I could go on and on about how each individual person has made a difference in my three years here. However, I have to remember that as much impact as people have made on me in that time it is still just three years. It's not like I'm giving a farewell after two decades of work here. My time here may end up just being a blip on the local radar, but I'll always remember it. Frankly in some ways it feels like my job here is unfinished because I didn't get to stick around and see this team live up to their potential. I didn't get to see the 2010-11 Smoke Eaters take the BCHL by storm.

However, I will be watching online and cheering them on...

I do plan on maintaining the blog for the time being and hopefully my replacement will be willing to take over. I think it's been worthwhile so far.

I'll also be at the spring camp this weekend so I hope I get to say some of those goodbyes in person. Thanks to everyone around the league and community for their kind words and support over the past three seasons. I hope we'll stay in touch. Even from Europe the hockey world is a small and wonderful community. Who knows, I could be back again before you know it.

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