The best part about spending so much time in the little corner of the internet CanucksArmy occupies is seeing writers and analysts leave the blogosphere for greener pastures.
It’s also the worst part.
Even if you only got to know someone through their writing, it’s hard not to miss them when they’re gone. The advent of online media has allowed us to consume content that’s tailor-made to our specific niche or interest. Because we don’t all have to go to the same places anymore, coverage has become more intimate. As readers and listeners, we become invested in the lives of the people who deliver us our stories, even if we don’t intend to. When someone whose work offered a brief escape from the drudgery of a long work day or whose voice became a companion on your drive home in the evening disappears, sometimes it can feel like a smallest part of yourself has disappeared, too – and that goes double for when it’s someone you’ve worked alongside for the past three years.
It’s become something of a tradition here to offer up a “state of the blog” piece any time someone from CanucksArmy gets hired on somewhere else, to congratulate that person and give an outline of where things are headed. So, here it is: the site basically runs itself in August, so the day-to-day tasks Ryan Biech assumed during his time here will be done by committee until the details of naming a new Managing Editor are hashed out. But since that doesn’t leave us a lot of room to reflect on the magnitude of this particular moment in the site’s history, I thought it was only right that, on Ryan’s first official day away from CanucksArmy, he should get a proper send-off.
I first met Ryan late in the summer of 2016 at the now-defunct Young Stars Classic in Penticton. It was a few months after being hired by CA, and I was eager to make an impression on my new Nation Network colleagues- Ryan, Garret Hohl, JD Burke, Thomas Drance, and then-newly-minted member of the Florida Panthers Rhys Jessop- on my first trip as “media” (that term is being used generously here, my dad paid my way and put me up at his place in Osoyoos, about a 40 minute drive from the arena).
Ryan was the first person from CA to reach out to me and suggest we meet up at some point during the weekend. As someone who was a reader and listener of the Game Time Decision podcast far before I became his coworker, I jumped at the invitation. So, during the first intermission of the second game of the tournament, I made my way up from the lower bowl and pushed through a gaggle of screaming, helmet-clad Winnipeg Jets fans to put a face to the disembodied voice that I’d grown accustomed to on my morning commute. We chatted for about 15 minutes about GTD and whatever was going on in the news at the time and then parted ways to enjoy the rest of the game.
At the time, the gesture meant a lot to me. Outside of Thomas Drance, the CanucksArmy roster still consisted of the most micro of microcelebrities of the hockey blogosphere, but they were guys whose work I respected and I was still little nervous – not just that they wouldn’t like me, but that I wouldn’t like them. On the drive to the arena on the first day of the tournament I had a thought that I imagine comes across the mind of anyone who’s about to meet people they’ve spent some time admiring from afar: what if these guys suck?
Luckily, those worries were assuaged almost immediately. I quickly discovered that they were all good guys (yes, even JD,) and I left Penticton that weekend thinking that if this was all that came from my foray into the hockey blogosphere – a trip to the interior and the opportunity to make some new friends – that was good enough. Instead, I got to work closely with JD and Ryan over the next few years and eventually transition into my role here as associate editor.
Even years later, as Ryan has continued to hone his skills as an analyst, it’s these qualities that are the first thing to come to mind when considering what assets he will bring to the Canucks: kind, affable, generous with his time, and willing to go out of his way to make people feel comfortable and their opinions heard.
The Canucks have a relatively small front office and a small analytics department, so adding anyone into the fold should be met with praise. The fact that is happens to be someone as bright and dedicated as Ryan is a big victory for the team, and a gigantic loss for his readers and colleagues.
The magnitude of this moment should not be lost on anyone. For years, the Canucks were accused of ignoring what was going on in their own backyard – they were missing out on high-end talent in the WHL and even the hometown Vancouver Giants and watching other teams reap the rewards of taking a flyer on players like Milan Lucic and Brendan Gallagher. But a similar thing was happening with the analytical talent in the city- a lot of bright kids doing work in scouting and analytics who got their start writing about the Canucks were being picked up by rival NHL clubs. By my count, eight former CA contributors have gone on to work in the NHL, but Ryan is the first to work for the home team.
For all the cries of “watch the games!” that are inevitably directed at any hockey writer who incorporates data and statistics into their analysis, no one I know watched more hockey over past the 3 years than Ryan. During his time at the Army, Ryan spent many of his waking hours pouring over tape of draft-eligible prospects, the Utica Comets, and the Canucks. It’s only fitting that now, he’ll be doing it full-time.