They say that nobody gets anywhere alone and I believe that whole-heartedly. Whether it's people purposely greasing the path for you or others unknowingly inspiring you, nothing is accomplished in a vacuum.
So, before I let my hair down and do a little What's Bugging Ms. Conduct post and before I wander down memory lane, I wanted to dish out some admittedly self-indulgent love and thank yous.
First of all, the big 3:
Barry Brust - I know, I know. But the reason I adore Barry so much is that he cemented my love of the game and my passion for goaltending, spoiled me for every other goalie ever, and was always nicer to me than I ever deserved. Let's be honest, I probably deserved a restraining order, but instead, we ran a goalie camp together, he gave me tons of great insight into the game, both as a goalie and just as someone who has a terrific hockey mind, and he was always super handsome and still totally is. Team Brusty 4ever, you guys!!!
Bryan Reynolds - He was the one who said, "Hey, you should cover the Aeros for Pro Hockey News and get a press pass." I was all, "Ehhh, I don't like writing serious hockey stuff. I like swooning and exaggerating and making people laugh." But then my husband was all, "*I'm* not paying for season tickets so... you might want to do this." Compelling argument. So, away I went popping my press row cherry and meeting...
Andrew Ferraro - The example I followed and, eventually, the little voice in my head was always Andrew's. His playful approach to covering the game but serious approach to the journalism helped us work well together, while his ability to see through bullshit, to wade through distractions, and find the kernel of truth or importance taught me a lot of the things that were missing from my education as a reporter. There's a helluva lot of stuff they don't teach you in journalism school. Most of the important stuff, honestly.
Also, his (very rare) absence from Aeros games when he was the (most excellent) beat writer the previous 10 years allowed me to dip a toe in the Real Journalist waters and eventually enabled me to ask for the Chronicle gig and get it. He's been my guiding hand all season as I made my way through my first year on the beat, awash in insecurities at covering one of the most important seasons in Aeros history.
I'm forever grateful to all three of you for either setting me on the path or keeping me on it. Not that I ever knew where it was going or had any particular goals. Sometimes you just get really really lucky.
Beyond that, thanks to some great PR guys, particularly Rich Bocchini and Josh Fisher, who both treated me great and got me what I needed to do my job and made me laugh constantly. And I can't forget Jeremy Rakes, who took great care of us on game nights. My happy place used to be on a hammock, swaying gently in the breeze next to the ocean. Now it's on press row. If there's anything better than watching hockey, it's watching it with the most knowledgeable people in the building (who aren't standing behind the bench).
Thank you to coaches John Torchetti, Mike Yeo, and Kevin Constantine, all of whom where a total pleasure to work with. Every time one left, I thought I couldn't like the next guy more, and yet, every one was great in his own way. I learned so much from each and was always treated with respect.
Thanks to my other colleagues on press row, especially John Royal, and when he was around, Fred Trask, for laughing at my jokes, keeping my secrets, and being my friends and advisors. I enjoyed every single minute of working with you guys. Love you bunches.
Thanks and love to Joy Lindsay, the Binghamton Senators beat writer during our mutual cup run, for being my first female beat writer role model (a true pro) and also a one of the nicest people I've ever met. Girlfriend doesn't. even. eat. butter. out of concern for the animals. God bless her. We had some fun during the finals, we did.
To Aaron Voros, for walking out in nothing but his Under Armor that one time back when our seats were by the locker room tunnel, thank you for introducing me to the wonder that is Hockey Butt.
Thanks to Wild fans, who gave me a niche to fill with their voracious appetite for prospect news while also teaching about the game. Such a knowledgeable fan base, even if you do yell SHOOOOT throughout the power play (stop that).
Extra special thanks to the Aeros fans (you guys!) who read my thoughts on goaltending and DIDN'T leave nastygrams in the comments (you know who you are, Anonymous! *mwah*).
Thank you to Chronicle Deputy Sports Editor Jay Lee for giving me a chance to cover the team and, more importantly for liking the work I did, and similarly, Mike Damante for being one of the nicest, most reassuring guys ever when I was feeling insecure and frazzled about covering the team. Which was a lot. Also, thank you for being a willing and able backup as my priorities shifted late in the season with our move to Dallas. What a life-saver!
And of course, all the friends I've made in the hockey community in Houston, either through the Aeros or through playing the game. All the times Ally's anthem has given me goose bumps. All the great intro videos that reminded me why I love this team. All the opposing players I called "cupcakes" while they were in the penalty box next to my seats as a ticket holder. Chuuuuuuckoooooooo....
Thanks as well to the players, who bust their Hockey Butts all year long, lose teeth, get concussed, break limbs, noses, collar bones, spend their lives wrapped in ice packs and, oh yeah, score goals and block shots and make sexy glove saves ... for our entertainment and because chicks dig it. Most were as gracious as can be with the media, which is a blessing.
I'm sure I'm leaving someone out. Truthfully, every person I interacted with made my experience covering the team special in some way, from the sweet parking garage guy and Ramona at the security desk and on and on.
My heart aches at the thought of not meeting up with my pals at the top of 108 in October. I loved the Aeros, but the memories I'll really cherish are the connections with my fellow hockey-lovers.