Two things first — 1) Sorry for being a little late with this, but it has been a busy day and 2) I apologize in advance to anyone I forget to thank or mention in the coming paragaphs. There literally has been too many people who have positively impacted my life in the past six years to remember everyone.
Well, even though I’ve known for about a month that my days at the Washington Times were numbered, it is still going to feel weird when I wake up tomorrow and I won’t have something to write about.
I’ve known for a long time that I wanted to be a sports writer. I’ve been doing it in some fashion since I was 13 years old, and outside of a breif flirtation with architecture (which was quickly cast aside when I found out you actually had to be able to draw) it’s been the only thing I’ve wanted to do for basically half of my life.
The Washington Times is the only paper I’ve worked for since college, and there are so many people at the paper that I need to thank for helping me get to where I am today. Editors Mark Hartsell, Monty Wood and Dave Coates were instrumental in my career path, while John Taylor and Scott Silverstein have played a huge part in making me a better reporter and writer. John probably deserves an entire post of his own, and I can only hope my relationship with future editors is remotely close to ours.
I have several friends at the Times who I have worked with since we were all at the Diamondback together, and wherever we end up there will always be the DBKStop fantasy baseball draft at Tim Lemke’s house to bring us back together again. People probably don’t think of fantasy leagues as a way to stay connected with people, but hopefully the Times-themed football and hockey leagues will survive for that very purpose.
There are so, so many people in the hockey community to thank. I’ve covered every sport for the Times, either in small or large doses, and everything positive people say about working in hockey — from the players to the coaches to the people around the teams — is 100 percent true.
Covering the Caps for the past three-plus years has put me in a rink for a lot of amazing games and stories and performances, but the friendships I’ve formed are far more meaningful to me.
To the guys in the Caps PR department — Paul Rovnak, Nate Ewell and Kurt Kehl — well, there is a reason they are the 1980s Edmonton Oilers of the Dick Dillman Award. I also need to mention Scott Strasemeier and Staci Michaud at the Naval Academy here — I’ve been blessed to work with the very best media relations people in their sports on the two beats I’ve covered for the Times.
I will certainly miss being on the road with Mike Vogel and Brett Leonhardt, as well as talking hockey on The Capitals Report. The wonderful gesture Bruce Boudreau made after the game Tuesday has become well-known at this point, but I have to say my “farewell dinner” with Paul, Vogs and Stretch in Vancouver not only showed what great people they are but will be something I never forget.
I owe a great deal to Tarik El-Bashir, who has helped me learn the ins and outs of covering the NHL more than anyone. Covering the Caps would not have been nearly as wonderful of an experience if Tarik and I didn’t get along as well as we do. It is very easy for us to transition from “competitor” to “friend” and we have had many a great nights on the road because of it.
There are many other writers and members of the hockey community I owe gratitude too. Pierre LeBrun and Scott Burnside at ESPN.com and Damien Cox of the Toronto Star are superstars in our profession, but they’ve been great to me from Day One.
I need to thank Pierre in particular. Near the end of last season, I was in a bit of a rut professionally and was starting to waver a little about whether or not I wanted to do this the rest of my life. Spending two weeks with Pierre during the first round of the playoffs changed that in a hurry, and I don’t expect my fervor for the profession to ever waver again. There are literally dozens of hockey people who have met me because either Pierre or Scott or Damien introduced me to them, and I can’t be more gracious for that.
Two other hockey writers have to be mentioned here. Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and Chris Johnston of the Canadian Press have quickly become two of my best friends, both inside of hockey and out. Guys, I will do my best to find employment soon. The Trio will survive.
Last but certainly not least in a post that is suddenly a lot longer than I expected it to be even though I know I am leaving too many people out:
I have to thank Patrick Stevens. Besides being the best college football/basketball/lacrosse beat writer in the nation (and this is not even up for debate), Pat was my first real boss. He was the sports editor at The Diamondback, our student newspaper at Maryland, and from the moment when he told me the second story I submitted to him wasn’t worthy of running in the paper, I knew he was going to make me a better writer.
Pat also played a large role in me getting a job at the Times. I have basically replaced him twice at the Times when he’s been promoted — first as a part-time agate clerk and then as a full-time member of the copy desk. Along the way, he’s also become a lifelong friend.
Thanks to all of the Caps fans who have been so supportive, not only in the past few days but during my time covering the team. I think most of you have even gotten over the fact that a kid from Pittsburgh was writing about your team every day.
I think it is appropriate for me to end my final blog post for the Times where it all began. When I started covering this team I knew there were shoes too big for me to fill when Dave Fay passed away, but I am positive the standards and expectations set by his work made me work as hard and I could.
We haven’t forgotten you, Dave, and just because the sports section is going away doesn’t mean we will anytime soon.