Arndt: Why I’m leaving The Athletic and bringing post game coverage to CanucksArmy
8 months ago
It’s kind of weird to pen one of these articles. Part of me wonders who could possibly want to know my thought process about changing employers. There wasn’t exactly a lineup of people wondering why I decided to make the big leap from Video Update to Blockbuster back in the day, but maybe that’s just because social media wasn’t around back then.
For the record, Video Update was a far superior job, but the prestige of wearing that blue and yellow Blockbuster shirt definitely brought…well I don’t know what it brought, but I was certain the Subway employee nodded at me with a newfound respect once I switched brands.
But as Ben Kuzma told me recently: Writers write.
So that is what I am going to do.
Besides, I’ve always viewed my writing style as the kind of thing that felt like you were talking to a buddy about sports. I want people to sit back, yell, debate, laugh and essentially have fun when we’re trying to break down the highlights of a 1-0 loss to Arizona (Botch knew those 1-0 losses would harden me into a writing warrior, and he was right). So it feels only natural to force my friends to listen to why I changed up my job while they politely sneak glances at their phones when they think I’m not looking.
So why have I made the switch back to CanucksArmy, after years of working my way to the top of the greasy pole? If you had told me a year ago that I’d make this switch, I’d have screamed at you to leave me alone before trying to push you down a flight of stairs. But here I find myself, not only happy to be making the switch, but downright excited.
Now, this isn’t a tell-all, burning-my-bridges, sort of memoir about how The Athletic did me dirty. There are no stories of them demanding I write in a full suit behind my computer and that I submit my TPS reports in triplicate every third Friday. Were there corporate hurdles that were tough to navigate at times? Sure was. That comes with the territory of any big company, where the more people involved, the less likely they are to “get you”, especially an article as untraditional as The Armies. It’s hard to find someone high up in the chain of command to explain why I need 13,381 gifs in an article sometimes, you know?
Did I love my time at The Athletic? Hell yeah. I am not making this up when I say I am honoured that I got to work with Thomas Drance and Harman Dayal, while Naoko Asano and Israel Fehr edited my work to make sure I didn’t say anything too silly. That first year with Drance and Harman was the stuff of dreams, with no COVID restrictions, and working as a full unit to produce the best content on game night that we could. Working as a team was something foreign to me, as when I made my way up in the writing world it was still very much a street fight with other writers. You should have SEEN the snark back in those days, where a pointed look or an audible sigh was the equivalent of declaring war on your press box neighbour. So having a cohesive unit of three that worked together like that? It was a dream!
And honestly, if you had told me I’d end up writing for The Province and The Athletic back when I first started, I wouldn’t have believed you. No, I wouldn’t have shoved you down any stairs, but I would have found it unfathomable that I could have written at two giant platforms like that. Imposter syndrome is a hell of a drug, let me tell you.
Which brings us back to the question? Why go back to CanucksArmy?
Well for one, they’re no longer the little blog that could. We all knew the power of CanucksArmy back in 2012, when like half the site eventually got hired by the NHL. But they have continued to grow and become a strong powerful voice in this market. The hustle Quadrelli and Faber have shown since day one is downright inspiring. Watching them build up a group of young smart writers, and legitimizing CanucksArmy to be on par with the other big outlets is the stuff of legends. It’s no longer a step back to work for CanucksArmy, as they are ready to go toe to toe with any outlet. It’s like how actors see TV as a legit vehicle for their careers now rather than being a death sentence of being aired after Family Ties. Hold on, Quadrelli is texting me to update this reference… ok — rather than being aired after iCarly.
Not the reboot. The original.
Quads and Faber are also a huge reason I wanted to work here, to be honest. The plans we have for gameday coverage remind me of my first year at The Athletic, but even better. We have an approach that is all hands on deck, getting Faber in the room to mine for golden quotes outside of the regular boring scrums, Quads being the Chloe to my Jack Bauer on the editing side of things, and me doing what I always do: Talk about Luke Schenn for half an article. With gifs!
I want more videos, more entertainment, more fun, and CanucksArmy is the place that I feel I can do this best at. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll be hard pressed to find someone who takes sports more serious than I do, but there is a healthy balance of being able to laugh, cry, and scream about what you’re watching, and that is something I think I can excel at.
Sports should be fun, but also life and death, you know? The secret is finding that balance in coverage.
I also want to continue Jason Botchford’s legacy of using whatever power I have to elevate some new writers. While I will cover the bulk of Canucks games, Faber and Quads (see how I changed from Quads and Faber to Faber and Quads? This is just the start of my editing nightmares for Quadrelli) will do some Stanchies, and I also want a couple of other writers from CanucksArmy to have a go at it. I will never forget when Botch told me I’d be writing The Provies for the first time and what that meant to me. I can only hope to impart a bit of that feeling to a new writer, giving them a large platform, and seeing what they do with it.
I also wanted to join CanucksArmy because honestly, watching Don Taylor, Rick Dhaliwal, Blake Price, Matt Sekeres, Rob Fai, Jeff Paterson, and okay, even Andrew Wadden, all excel after 1040 was shut down, was inspiring as hell. They doubled down on local coverage, and people responded. Having the chance to lean into the local side of things and trying to grow a brand that is 100% here for this market? That’s something that I find so very exciting.
And you know what? I kind of like the idea of being the starting goalie finally. I honestly have felt like the back-up goalie for these articles for so long that I kind of want to go all in on leading the charge, and I will get that shot here with CanucksArmy.
I’m being told to wrap this up, so let’s just end on this.
There is nothing in my career I have felt as rewarding as writing the The Provies/Athletties/Armies. Being able to connect with this market and make people feel like they are a part of everything, nothing will top that feeling. Any time someone mentions something along the lines of “I’m not in Vancouver but I read your article and it feels like I’m there,” I glow.
That is what I am always striving for. That is why I write about the Canucks.
I want to cover this team and make it fun, make it important, make it relevant, and most importantly, make it feel like we’re all part of a weird family that yells all the time, but at the end of the day, we truly are on the same team.
I cannot wait to cover the Canucks this season at CanucksArmy, and I hope you enjoy the ride.
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