I've been meaning to write this for quite some time. It was intended to be a "Welcome Back," "State of the Union" type of piece. But time caught up with me between previewing, in detail, all 56 teams in the state, selecting and releasing our top skaters and goalies daily as well as fortifying and refurbishing the best high school sports website you can find with the help of my main man Klein. So, on this slow Monday night, while taking a break from previewing Wednesday games for our Morning Rundown, I thought I'd shoot out some thoughts, praises, gripes and musings.
My standby response when discussing CTHSHockey with coaches, parents and anyone else who will listen has always been, "I never in a million years saw it turning into what it's turned into." I was simply trying to find a way to fill a void that was left after abruptly cancelling my Quinnipiac Hockey Blog coverage during the 2011-12 season. It began as simply a DI blog covering the then, 17 DI teams. It's grown into a phenomenon. CTHSHockey has become the go to page for scores, updates, stats and unfiltered coverage of a sport that was in dire need of that coverage. We have a freedom to cover and report honestly. We have no agenda, no one to report to. We don't abuse this but don't come at us.
The phrase "often imitated, never duplicated" comes up a lot, and that's okay because of one thing, our following. The people that have flocked to Twitter and created accounts just to be able to follow us. It's humbling. It's that constant reminder and duty that crosses my mind when I'm up to the wee hours of the morning researching the last ten meetings between the Redhawks and Housatonic-Northwestern-Wamogo. A couple years ago, before I had the staff of devoted tweeters, staffers that I have now, I was shutting it down. It became too much. That ended quickly the first time I walked into a rink the following year. This was too good to give up. The gratification that we feel every time we get a compliment, a thanks, far outweighs the sparse chirps, the old guard telling us we're not media. We started a podcast, a Snapchat channel, watched our following grow in the thousands, implemented our own Power Rankings, started a highly successful Saturday Selections segment, hatty alerts, now shutout alerts. The more we add, the more the fans are able to soak up and spread the gospel. But at the end of the day, this wasn't started with this success in mind. This was started with the players in mind. The idea of covering an amateur game in as professional and exciting a way that anyone who's prime has passed would've loved to have had when they were a high school, amateur athlete. Now, with the infinitely appreciated help of Dan Bush and Hamden Sport, we're able to honor some of these student athletes on a nightly basis when handing out player of the game shirts.
I was standing pregame at the LHK/North Haven game last week when a lot of this hit me at once. First when walking in the rink I was greeted by first year Staples Head Coach Charles Halloran, a great young coach who I had gotten to know through Twitter over his years as an assistant. While speaking to him long time coach and first year North Haven Head Coach Chris Avena came over and was ever so warm in greeting me. I wandered over to the LHK locker room and had a great exchange with Richie Minnix, another awesome young mind at the helm. In this span of maybe 10 minutes, I was given the validation, that early on I questioned I'd ever get. Hockey coaches can be a tough breed, but at least on this night, these three seemed to like what we do. Part of that is likely our unabashed honesty but I think they understand the level of work that goes into the depth of our coverage.
Are we perfect? No flipping way. But that's okay. The Brennan Horn preseason ranking was a great example of this. I owned it, messaged the kid, and told him to go kill it this year. In now the eighth season since starting CTHSHockey, I can speak confidently that this little blog, has been an absolute blessing and I'm forever thankful. I'm thankful for my staff. I'm thankful I got to watch Charlie Capalbo play and now raise awareness for him in whatever way we can. I'm thankful I got to cover Trevor Piecewicz scoring his first career hat trick the night his great grandmother passed. I'm thankful I got to chronicle Jon Lovorn's journey and what he's meant to the Newtown community. I'm thankful to be able to donate to EO Smith every year for every goal scored.
This isn't a eulogy for CTHSHockey. We're alive and thriving. In under a week, we, as a staff, have seen 26 teams. We will continue this great coverage to the moon and back. If you see any of us at a rink, feel free to come up and say hello. To those of you who have made CTHSHockey what it is, I'm thankful for you, too.
Happy hockey, everyone.