25 August 2017

We all go through changes - it’s a part of life.

But how you face the inevitability of change should help to define you as a person. I’ve always felt that change, in general, should improve me in a way that I hadn’t yet realized, thereby allowing me the chance to see things with increased optimism. Why not learn from your surroundings, especially if it leads to personal satisfaction?

A lot has happened to me since I started this blog four years ago. I’ve made new friends, connected with fellow writers, and discovered the power of Twitter (for better or worse). My love of hockey has grown stronger as a result, and I’ve found that I can be actively engaged in my favorite sport while living and working in a town dominated by the entertainment industry. I also turned 40 years old - my mother became a grandmother at that age, but I wasn’t even close to finding love myself. But that all changed too...

I met Charlene in April 2016. Less than a year later, I asked her to marry me. She is a consistent inspiration in my daily life, and makes me want to be the best man that I can be. She is also a blogger, and we even had a lengthy discussion about our respective websites - and writing in general - during our first date. I’ve learned so much by following her example, and in turn she has used her experience to help me get the most out of my blog. She took it upon herself to design a logo for Hockey Transplant, helping to motivate me to get back on track and write with a purpose. She created business cards for me to hand out, got me to create an Instagram account, and - as one of the greatest birthday presents ever - had a t-shirt made with the HT logo.

She also introduced me to her favorite TV show...Doctor Who.

While the dictionary describes regeneration as “spiritual renewal or revival”, fans of the hit BBC series know that the word carries so much more meaning. In addition to the spiritual aspects of change, the element of physical transformation is also required when one Doctor transitions into the next - the difference is startling but welcome. The show prides itself of evolution and re-growth (two words: Female Doctor!), which is something sports fans should be used to by now. Whether it’s something as simple a rule change, or as drastic as a beloved player (or even team) changing locations, we’ve become accustomed to progress whether we like it or not. But what about changing the internal thought process that goes into being a sports fan itself? Could there be physical changes which might be induced at the same time?


I’ve often said that the main reason I enjoy sports is because it can be more dramatic than any movie, book or television program. But the exuberant highs that one can experience is only made possible from the devastating lows. And let’s not kid ourselves - sports can be a VERY cruel mistress. I’ve seen what it does to people, and I know full well of the repercussions that a crushing defeat can have on someone’s mindset. I had to re-examine my own outlook on sports as I got older, and I wasn’t very happy with what I found.

When I became a hockey fan in 1993, I latched onto the local team, and soon found myself a loyal follower of the St. Louis Blues. I knew their history was not checkered with championships from prior years, but they had a fun group of players and a terrific TV broadcast team to watch. However, the misery of each passing year made it more and more difficult to stay emotionally invested. For me, it likely started with that Steve Yzerman OT goal from the 1996 playoffs (Dear NHL - is there any chance you could stop playing that highlight during EVERY playoff season?!), continued with the loss to the Sharks in the 1st round after winning the Presidents' Trophy in 2000, and reached its soul-crushing pinnacle with the blown 3-games-to-1 lead in the 2003 playoffs in Vancouver. How much more could I take? Apparently, not that much…

I moved to Los Angeles in 2003, and quickly realized that the lack of local media coverage would make following the Blues, and hockey as a whole, somewhat laborious. Soon afterward, a year-long lockout would wipe out the entire next NHL season and when the league resumed, I found that all four of my favorite players were no longer playing in St. Louis: Al MacInnis had retired, Chris Pronger had been traded to Edmonton, and both Craig Conroy and my all-time favorite player Pavol Demitra (RIP) had signed with the Los Angeles Kings. Just like that, I made the decision to scale back my interest in the Blues and the NHL itself, and spent the next few years focusing on work and adjusting to my new life in sunny California.

By the spring of 2009, the Blues were in the midst of a revival of their own and had re-emerged with a cast of fresh young faces to make an improbable run to the Stanley Cup playoffs. All of those old emotions from the 1990’s came back at me in full force, and I jumped back into my Blues fandom - this would also include having to sink the extra money into the NHL Center Ice package so that I could watch their games on TV, but it was money well spent in my opinion. Leading the charge were two beloved fan favorites to which I instantly gravitated: T.J. Oshie and David Backes. I had my team back! Though they would get swept out of the playoffs that year, and sputter through the next couple of seasons, the Blues were clearly building toward something special.

Then came 2012: the culmination of the rebuild, as the Blues would win their division and storm into the postseason. They won their first playoff series in a decade against San Jose, only to get swept by the eventual champions who played in the town where I now lived. Then came 2013: another series against the Kings, and another disappointing loss. The hated arch-rivals from Chicago would go on to win the Cup that year, making matters worse. Then came 2014: a first-round matchup with those Blackhawks, ending with four straight losses after going up 2-games-to-none. Oh, and the Kings won the Cup again. Then came 2015: another division title, and another first-round loss. And another Cup for the Blackhawks. Then T.J. Oshie was traded. Honestly, I just couldn’t take it any more - the fun of watching the Blues had simply gone out of my life.

Meanwhile, I launched this blog and decided to embark on a quest to see a game in every NHL arena. It was during these trips that I found myself becoming enamored with each city, and got to meet a lot of great fans along the way - these were people who had cheered for rival teams for many years, yet it was so easy to find common ground with them as we shared our mutual love of hockey. The lines of division grew thinner with each passing year, as most of the players I had previously disliked were now settling into retirement. I had no real reason to cheer for OR against any particular team.

By the time the 2015-16 season rolled around, I had all but completely distanced myself from the St. Louis Blues. They will always be my “hometown team”, so I wish them well, but I no longer felt the need to follow the day-to-day happenings of the organization. Instead, I chose to divert that energy into following the NHL as a whole, paying closer attention to the various storylines around the league - this is where the drama lies, as I found myself cheering for players rather than teams. As it turns out, the Blues would make their deepest playoff run in 15 years, before losing to San Jose in the Western Conference Final. David Backes leaving the team to sign with Boston that summer was the epilogue of my Blues allegiance: a charming story spanning more than two decades.

I enjoyed my “fandom free agency” while continuing to travel to the various arenas, but it always felt like there was something missing. I sometimes found it difficult to discuss the sport on social media and message boards without being a fan of a particular team, so when Las Vegas was awarded the newest NHL franchise, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to reignite those old passions. This was a chance to see a team being built from scratch, allowing my internal “armchair GM” to guess and second-guess each decision made by the organization. I’m not going to lie - it’s a lot of fun, and has brought back some of the joy that I experienced when hockey first came into my life. I don't even live in Las Vegas, but I'm so happy for the hockey fans there who can now cheer for their very own professional sports franchise.

One welcome side effect from this reawakening is that it has brought about a sense of unbridled optimism. The Golden Knights have nowhere to go but up, so I can view the team in the most positive light possible. There's no reason to be down on them - they're brand new and I'm expecting them to be very mediocre for the first few seasons, but it's going to be tremendous to see their gradual evolution.  It reminds me of the great work being done by the Oilers Nation blog - and their fearless ringleader WanyeGretz - who likes to constantly remind us that “Hope will never die!”, and THAT’S a wonderful way to go through life!


Much like The Doctor, I've also undergone a “physical transformation” as the blog begins its next phase. In addition to creating my new logo, Charlene has generously donated her skills with web design and improved the aesthetic layout of the page itself, and I've also switched web hosts (from Squarespace to Blogger). How much I use my aforementioned Instagram account remains to be seen, but there is now a corresponding link on the page to go alongside my Twitter and YouTube accounts.

My quest to see a game in every NHL arena is one of the driving narratives on this blog, and there are a LOT of trip recaps that I still need to write up, so look out for those. I'm also excited to announce a new monthly column known as the “Squire Report”, in which I will share my thoughts and perspective on news concerning the Vegas Golden Knights - I've found myself consistently engaging with various fans, media members and bloggers in Vegas this summer, and I thought this might be a great way to add some weight to my words and increase my reach (“doubling down”, if I may steal a phrase from the gambling world).

So here's hoping you liked what you've seen so far, and will be as excited as I am about the future. The change is inevitable, so it's time to embrace it. Follow the lead of The Doctor...

(Radio Times / BBC)

You Might Also Like


Popular Posts