This is not the type of post that I thought I would be writing when I woke up today. I had planned on getting into breaking down the Utica Comets season with a series of articles, starting today, but like many of you, I was stunned to learn of the sudden passing of Jason Botchford and those plans went out the window.
I don’t really even know where to begin other than to say thank you to Jason.
Since I joined Twitter, I have had many Holy Shit moments when it comes to Jason Botchford. The first time that I had one of those was when I read The Provies for the first time and realized that there was somebody writing about the Vancouver Canucks in a way that was far different than I had ever seen before. Botch wasn’t just trotting out box scores and adding his two cents to make a post-game report, he was involving his readers and making them a part of “the game” by giving those readers a voice in his work.
When I saw that Botch used people’s tweets in The Provies, I was determined to have him use one of mine at some point. I spent that season inundating Jason with tweet after tweet with the hopes of “making the Provies”.
I mean, I was really, really pestering him at times, but then my next Holy Shit moment came when he actually “liked” one of my tweets. I messaged one of my buddies with the excitement that Botch had liked my tweet, but I would have to wait a while longer before one of my tweets was rewarded with a place in The Provies.
That was Holy Shit moment number three for me…when he actually used one of my tweets and I was on cloud nine. I had finally made the Provies. That was part of what made Jason’s work so special, he included his readers in ways that others did not. He made you feel like you were part of something bigger.
I can remember the day that Botch followed me on Twitter…Holy Shit…I felt like I was suddenly hanging out with the cool kid at school. After that, Botch and I started to interact a little more on Twitter and we would talk hockey in DMs over the next couple of seasons.
Fast forward a couple of years to when I started writing for CanucksArmy and I got a message from Jason congratulating me on my gig with CA. He told me that my timing for finding a niche with writing about the Utica Comets in this market couldn’t have been timed any better. He also told me that if I busted my ass, that I could be on to something good.
Botch advised me to write in my own style, to do something different than what others were doing, and that is how my Comets post-game reports ended up reading more like a play-by-play of the game rather than a typical post-game report. The moniker of Comets Cory was given to me by Botch and it has stuck ever since.
Jason made me feel like a peer rather than some blogger who was writing about the minor league team. He encouraged me to try to tackle real stories as well as my post-game reports. He made me feel as though I could actually contribute beyond the post-game and that as someone who was viewing all of the Comets games, that I had something of value to offer.
To get that sort of encouragement and support from one of the true heavyweights in our local media was huge for my confidence as a writer. Jason was big on supporting other writers rather than brushing them off.
Over the past two seasons, Jason has reached out to me on many occasions for info/my take on the Comets and how certain players were looking. To have him checking in with me for that info on a regular basis helped boost my confidence as well. He had a way of letting me know that my perspective was valid and that it was useful in this market…even if he didn’t always agree with me.
The support from Jason didn’t stop there as he also made it possible for me to talk some Comets hockey with he and Blake Price on the Sekeres and Price show on TSN1040 while he was filling in for Matt Sekeres. I was incredibly nervous going into that interview and let Botch know ahead of time. His words to me?…”It will just be the three of us talking hockey, don’t worry about who is listening…you’re gonna kill it.”
Now, I’m not sure if I killed it, but I can tell you that those words put me at ease enough to get through the radio spot and allowed me to “just talk hockey” rather than worry about making mistakes with so many listening.
Jason was full of support for new writers who were trying to have their work read. I say new writers and not just “young” writers because I am only two years younger than Jason and just breaking into this kind of work.
I was thrilled when I was able to attend Canucks training camp in Whistler this year so that I could meet Botch and thank him in person for all of his help. It took just seconds for that first conversation to feel like I was chatting with an old high school pal. That’s the thing about Jason, he was a good dude, a regular guy who was very easy to talk hockey with. He treated me as though I had been covering the team for a decade or more and that I was already one of the group.
Jason and I didn’t always agree on things with the Canucks organization, especially when it came to the Comets, but he genuinely took the time to hear my view of things as I saw them and made me feel as though my perspective was valid/important, even if he didn’t necessarily agree with me.
With a voice and a platform as big as he has created for himself in this market, it would have been easy for a guy like Jason to shrug off small-time writers and not give us the time of day, but that just wasn’t how Botch was built. He seemed to genuinely want to see me succeed and asked if there was anything that he could do to help me, on many occasions.
I will never be able to fully put into words what Jason Botchford’s support has meant to me as a new writer, but I can say that at least in part, it is because of him, that I am able to live out a dream of writing and talking about hockey and getting to do so in a manner that not many have the opportunity to do. I will miss chatting hockey with him as well as his advice for me about this business.
This market has lost a huge voice and a personality that will be impossible to replace, but Jason’s family has also lost a son, brother, father, and husband. My heart goes out to Jason’s family and those friends who were closest to him.
Rest in peace, Jason…you will never be forgotten in the Hergott home. All of the hat tips and lap pats are headed your way.