Remembering the best of times in the toughest of times

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Photo by Lachlan Irvine

Obviously, no one expected the 2019-20 NHL season to end like this.

As I sit at home in my apartment’s office/living room, it’s hard to keep yourself occupied on rewatching Parks and Rec and The Mandalorian when the world seems to be crumbling around you. But even though it’s hard to find any positives to talk about right now, I can’t help but look back on the year that was and the good moments attached to it.

Moving to Vancouver last summer was a nerve wracking decision. Sure, I have family in town, but this was about going out on my own and finding my own path to happiness. I moved into my first apartment and started working full time. I managed to find a few extra writing jobs to help pay the bills, and while I’ve still got a ways to go before I’m doing it full time, it’s a good start nonetheless.

It had been half a decade since I’d been able to attend a Canucks game in Vancouver, so being inside Rogers Arena on opening night for the team’s 50th anniversary was the experience of a lifetime. Seeing heroes of the past like Kirk McLean and Todd Bertuzzi skate onto the ice as if they’d just stepped out of a time machine. Witnessing Bo Horvat receive his new jersey from the Canucks original captain, Orland Kurtenbach, with a fresh captain’s ‘C’ sewn onto the chest. And of course, watching Quinn Hughes score his first NHL goal as part of an 8-2 rout of the visiting Los Angeles Kings.

Growth

This season was one of growth and milestones for both the Canucks and myself. I was able to meet so many great people at the rink, at school and through podcasting, and I was given the opportunity to cover junior hockey for the first time through the hometown Vancouver Giants.

Every first visit to a new arena can be nerve wracking, as your mind races through all the different ways you could possibly embarrass yourself. “What if I enter through the wrong door? What if they notice the wrinkles in my suit jacket and deem me too sloppy to be a media person? What if I accidentally trip in front of the press box railing and land in the arena bowl?”

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Photo by Lachlan Irvine

Thankfully, I was never the only writer at the Langley Events Centre. The Province’s Steve Ewen never misses a game, and on my first night there he immediately took the time to show me the ropes and tour the building. Steve was a great sounding board for ideas and general life discussions, and I can only hope someday I get to return that favour to a future generation of sports writers.

Of course, I wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity to cover Giants games every week if it hadn’t been for my editor at Daily Hive, Rob Williams. Rob gave me my first job after I moved home to write the occasional Canucks column, an opportunity I’ve been extremely grateful for. I also owe a thank you to Giants media master Dan O’Connor, who was nice enough to even let me in the building.

It wasn’t all great beginnings, however. Due to new Californian regulations for freelancers, my time with Fear the Fin officially came to an end last month. I’m sad to officially close the book on my time in Sharks Territory, but my time working with my amazing FTF friends will always hold a special place in my heart.

I wouldn’t even be in the place that I am as a writer or a person without the help of my FTF editor, mentor and friend Sie Morley. Sie recently went on to lead SB Nation’s new California hockey division, a role and opportunity they’ve been working so hard to get to for years, and I couldn’t be prouder of them. Hopefully our working paths cross again someday.

The Best Night

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Photo by Lachlan Irvine

Out of all the games I covered this season, one clearly sticks out above the rest. December 8th was the Giants’ annual Teddy Bear Toss game, and for the first time in franchise history, the team was hosting an opponent at Rogers Arena.

My pregame routine that day took on a different meaning. It started off as most others; I took the SkyTrain downtown and walked over to the nearby Starbucks in International Village for coffee. But from there I added a new stop to Andy Livingstone Park to say hello to an old friend.

I’ve spoken before about the late Jason Botchford’s influence in convincing me to become a hockey writer. While I never got the chance to meet him in person, thanks to the efforts of noted people’s champion Wyatt Arndt, I was able to do the next best thing and sit on Botch’s Bench, a beautiful spot which overlooks the arena and a kids playground.

Memories like that are the ones I treasure most during this quarantine era; enjoying a warm coffee, feeling the crisp Vancouver air and taking a chance to remember one of the greatest people the game has ever known. I look forward to the day when I’m able to make my way back there again.

Finally, I made my way into Rogers Arena and to the press box view I’d dreamed of seeing ever since I started this blog back in 2016. There were plenty of empty seats, but all of them had a media member’s name attached to them. I didn’t want to take a regular media person’s spot in case they decided to show up, so I quickly shot a text to one of my favourite writers: Daniel “Pass it to Bulis” Wagner.

“Mind if I borrow your seat for the evening?”

Daniel got back to me quickly. “Ha! It’s all yours!”

If you’d told me a little over a month after that exchange I’d be working for Daniel as part of a newly expanded Pass it to Bulis team, I’d have called you crazy. The experience has been short so far, but getting to work with a team of talented young writers and for a person I’ve looked up to for years has been absolutely phenomenal. It’s going to be a great day when we’re given the green light to return.

Of course, for that to happen hockey needs to come back. And it doesn’t seem like that’s going to be a reality any time soon.

So, what now?

Next Steps

Until hockey returns, I’ll be adding plenty more content to the LITC Blog. It might not always be hockey-centric, but even if I occasionally delve into my other interests like movies, TV and music, I intend on having tie-ins to the game involved.

If you didn’t already know, my show The CreaseCast is still going strong throughout this break, and I’ve had some absolutely great guests on since the season stopped. Having people join me to talk about hockey and their interests away from the rink has been far and away the thing I look forward to most during this quarantine, and I’m super thankful to everyone who’s been taking time out of their day to come on the show each week.

If you’ve been enjoying the podcast, you can get plenty of bonus episodes by signing up for my Patreon’s $3 Flying Vee tier. Joining the Patreon helps me put more content out for everybody, so if you have some extra money to spare during these tough times it would be greatly appreciated.

If there’s any topics, hockey or otherwise, that’d you’d be interested in having me cover I’m more than interested in some suggestions. You can either leave them in the comments sections here, on the Patreon or tweet them at me.

The support I’ve received from Canucks fans and media alike since I arrived here has made this a very special season, and regardless of how it officially ends I will remember it for all the great memories I made along the way. But for now, I hope all of you are staying healthy and safe, and I only hope I can return the favours everyone here has given me by trying to keep you all entertained in the coming months.

Until next time, please practice social distancing, wash your hands regularly and remember, we’re all in this together. Greta Van Fleet, play us out.


Thanks for reading! If you enjoy my work, support the site by joining my Patreon!

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