21

An Honourable Discharge

The news has been out for the better part of a week now. I have landed what should be the opportunity of a lifetime covering the Vancouver Canucks both at home and on the road next season – and hopefully a bunch of seasons beyond that. In nearly two decades in this market, I have seen the team I cover play exactly one road game: March 5, 2016, in San Jose. So, I am excited to visit all of the NHL cities and the many arenas I feel I know well but have only seen on television. But this column isn’t about where I’m going. It’s about where I have been – right here at Canucks Army.

Part of my new deal with TSN 1040 is that I will not only report on the team at practices, morning skates and after all 82 games this season. I will also bring all my writing to the radio station website. As such, this is the end for me at the Army. But before I leave and disappear for the summer, I asked for – and fortunately was granted — the opportunity to hammer out one final column.

My stay in the Army was brief, but it was significant on a personal level. When I was laid off and out of work 20 months ago, the Army was the first outlet of any kind to reach out and offer me work. Then-Managing Editor Thomas Drance knew he didn’t have a huge budget to work with, but he wanted me to bring my years of experience (back) and my perspective to the Army. I say ‘back’ because some may recall my one-month trial on this site several seasons ago when the Canucks weren’t quite sure what to make of my venture into the great unknown of on-line hockey coverage. The team wasn’t ready then to have an accredited mainstreamer using his media pass to bang out stories for something called Canucks Army. With too many roadblocks to overcome at that time, it proved to be a 30-day experiment that never really got off the ground.

By last February, on-line hockey coverage had expanded considerably since my first attempt to contribute to the Army and so had the reach and depth of this website. The Canucks were open to the idea of increased coverage, and I was ready to get back to work. As a result, a few months after Drance reached out to offer me the chance to join this driving force of Canucks coverage, I accepted. And I can’t thank Thomas enough for the patience he showed as I took my sweet time considering my options and plotting the best course of action for my family and me. Along with Twitter and my weekly column in The Province, Canucks Army allowed me to maintain a presence in the market, and I don’t believe I would have been in the position to land the job I did last week without the platform I had access to here.

While my contributions were limited over the past year, I hope I was able to bring a unique perspective to the pieces I wrote. I fully recognize this site was built on the backs of brilliant analytical minds who come at the game with a different approach. There was no way I was going to match that. I did my best to offer opinion and tried hard to use my access to players, coaches and management to take readers places they can not go. While statistical coverage of the game grows on a seemingly daily basis, I hope there will always be a place in hockey to tell the stories of the people who make this game so great. To that end, I was delighted I was allowed to be myself when it came to choosing the topics and writing the pieces I did during my stay. What the loyal soldiers at the Army do continues to amaze and the recent run-up to and the coverage of the draft weekend in Chicago was yet the latest example of the hustle, desire and dedication shown in this space on a daily basis. These folks are machines when it comes to content generation, and I will continue to visit this site to get my fix of information and analysis I simply can not get elsewhere.

It has been an absolute pleasure to get to know JD Burke and Ryan Biech and watch these guys continually deliver the goods over the past year. I am inspired by how hard they – and other members of the Army – work to cover the team in ways that just aren’t available in other places. In my year here, I have learned from them, and they have forced me to reconsider the way I cover hockey. I offer that as perhaps the great compliment possible because I know there is always room to improve and if all of us who get the chance to talk and write about hockey are challenged to up our games, ultimately, it’s the fans who win. And that’s a good thing.

So, as I gather my belongings and head for the exit this final time, I won’t say goodbye because I hope to engage on the radio and on social and will continue to write, but for another site. Instead, I want to shout in my loudest voice possible ‘THANK YOU’ to the many members of the Army and to anyone who took a moment to read the pieces I produced for this site.

I will be forever grateful for the chance to contribute in this space. When I was down and wondering where to turn next, the Army came calling. It meant a great deal to me then and it always will.

  • RandomScrub

    Thanks for everything, Jeff, your work on this website was a wonderful addition, I always appreciated the professionalism your brought to your articles and am sure many others did too. Congratulations on your triumphant return to radio! Look forward to hearing you on 1040.

  • Riley Miner

    I will miss seeing you on my daily readings of Canucks Army, though clicking over to another site won’t be too much of a bother. My poor fingers though, all that typing.

    I’ve enjoyed reading your writing here and at The Province ever since 1040 cut ties and I am very glad that you will continue this, it’s been a privilege reading your insights and interviews with players and I’m selfishly glad that it happened to be that fate brought you to the blogosphere. I’m happy that you have a little bit of stability with your new station at the head of 1040, I wish you all the best.

  • Ranger2k2

    I was so happy to hear about the new opportunity offered to you. I enjoyed your perspective and I will look forward to reading your stories elsewhere. Usually Canucks army has offered new and unheralded writers a chance, it was nice to also see it offer a veteran journalist another crack at covering the same team in the same city.

  • DJ_44

    Great to hear you got a new gig. Sometimes good things happen to good people. We will miss your quality writing here at CA, but know where to find it. You are a pleasure to read, even when opinions differ. Have fun on the road trips.

  • Naslund

    I enjoy your writing, Jeff. More importantly, you offer a lesson to all of us that when times are tough, if we keep our dignity and professionalism, things will work out. Good luck in your new gig!

  • Chris the Curmudgeon

    I was at that game too (I live in Sharks territory)! My wife was uber-pregnant and had a huge Canuck logo over her bump and all the Sharks fans had to admit that it was pretty cute. Godspeed JPat, I have enjoyed reading your work around here and will begrudgingly navigate over to TSN1040 website to read you column (probably nothing else though, and I sure as hell won’t be making any props bets no matter how many times Blake Price pimps it).

  • Kenji

    Hey Jeff, I signed up here as a long time lurker just to say goodbye and congrats. This is a classy farewell and valediction, and for Canucks obsessives, a nice look at the media side. I remember when you came down from Kamloops, if memory serves, so I appreciate all the time you’ve put into this, the millions of words you’ve generated to fill airtime and column inches to serve the market interest in their NHL squad. I echo the others here who note that you kept it classy after what must have been a pretty disappointing moment, regrouped at the Army, and then went from Army back into MSM.

    At the same time, it’s good and right to acknowledge that CA is more than a springboard to some other media gig, it is its own thing – analysis and insight from a numerical and conceptual perspective that just can’t be done when the copy is due 15 minutes after the three stars have done their whirl – and that CA itself grows and changes.

  • Thanks for sharing your insight and knowledge. Your articles were probably the most balanced and well written on this site. Hope CA can find a quality replacement like yourself. Keep up the good work Jeff.

    It looks like TSN 1040 is not throwing in the towel, which is good news for sports talk radio.I wonder who gets poached to join 650.

  • Neil B

    Thanks, Jeff, for the insights & professionalism. Congrats on returning to the radio biz, and best wishes for a long run. As I’m from away now, I’ll be keeping an eye out for more online content.