Six weeks from today, it's out with 2011 and in with 2012.
For the Columbus Blue Jackets, and more importantly, their faithful followers, 2011 has been disappointing to say the least.
There have been moments of sheer ecstasy. Think back to the high that we were all on in July when Scott Howson loosened the purse strings and started to make things happen.
This Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, it's our annual ritual to take a moment and be thankful. I suspect however, that for many, it's become another day to watch football and put away a big meal.
I wanted you, dear Cannon reader, to know that I am thankful. Thankful for many things in my life. The last few months have had their share of personal issues, but the good significantly outweighs the bad so there's no use in dwelling on what isn't right.
So today, I want to share with you some of my "Hockey Thankfuls". Without further ado...
I am thankful for the opportunity to share my AHL observations with you here at The Cannon. When I was asked a year and a half ago to take this journey, I didn't know what to expect. Then, the day came along when Mike introduced me to all of you as The Cannon's "AHL Expert". Gulp. Perhaps some of you scoff, and say "Hey, it's the AHL. What's the big deal?" I can say that having been termed "Expert", the bar for me personally has been set very high. I wouldn't have it any other way.
Which brings to mind that I am also thankful for being a part of such an incredible team here at The Cannon. I've been fortunate enough to learn more about the guys here than many of you have. I can say with 100% seriousness, that Mike, Matt, Andy and Dan are terrific guys. They are passionate about many things in life and extremely so about the Jackets. They are a great bunch and hopefully their skill makes me a better blogger.
I am also very thankful for the American Hockey League. Without which, I would be an expert of nothing. The AHL has been a constant in my life since my very first game on February 25, 1968. As an 8 year old boy, my dad took me to see the Springfield Kings host the Rochester Americans. I've been to hundreds of hockey games in my life (something else to be thankful for!). But, I'll always remember that very first one...the colorful uniforms, the sounds, the old open topped Zamboni, the smells of the Coliseum, and yes the fact that the Kings beat the Amerks 5-2 with George Wood in net. Whew.
While I am thankful for the "A", and the great memories over the years, the last 18 years could have been very different had it not been for Bruce Landon. Landon and Wayne LaChance, former teammates, took a tremendous leap of faith in 1994 when they obtained an expansion franchise after the Springfield Indians had been sold and relocated. As a lifelong hockey fan, I am very thankful for the long hours, hard work and sacrifices that Landon and his executive team have made over the last 18 years.
Speaking of Springfield hockey, I am also thankful for the skills of all the players that I have seen over the years. From George Wood that first night to the Falcons of today, it's been a real blessing to have the second best hockey league in the world playing right here in my backyard. OK, these days it's about 50 miles to Springfield, but it's not really that far!
The Springfield Hockey Heritage Society is now in its second full season. Literally, born on a picnic table in Warwick, RI at a Rhode Island Reds Heritage Society event, I can't even begin to describe what an honor it's been to associate with a wonderful group of people who have a passion for the game, the teams and more importantly the people. Being able to call Eddie "Ted" Shore, Jr. "friend" is one of those pinch yourself kinds of things. Yes, he's an octogenarian now, but the son of the legendary Eddie Shore...just WOW!
My thanks also extend to the Reds' Society. Through their group, I have been so fortunate to have met some of the greats of the game. The last four summers, I selfishly indulge myself for a few minutes with the legendary Hall of Famer, Johnny Bower. One of the greatest goaltenders of all time, he backstopped the Leafs to their last Stanley Cup wins back in the 1960s. This past August, Ed Staniowski made his first appearance at the Reds annual gathering. A recognizable goalie from the 80s, he's gone on to bigger and better things. He is now a Lieutenant Colonel in the Canadian Armed Forces and has completed three tours of duty in Afghanistan. A truly remarkable man.
As I come full circle, I am thankful for the Blue Jackets. Thankful that they decided to take a chance in bringing their prospects to Springfield. The Falcons have been a doormat for most of the last decade, and as Landon and LaChance took a leap of faith in '94, so did the Jackets organization also take a leap of faith in coming to Springfield. The Oilers really made a shambles of things here. It was common knowledge that there was a list of NHL clubs that simply didn't want to have anything to do with the Falcons. Currently, the affiliation appears to be on solid ground and as a fan first, I would hope that it continues for many years to come.
Finally friends, I am thankful for you, Cannon reader and Blue Jackets fan. I appreciate the emails and the comments and I do my best to reply to all of them. As a hockey family, I sense your passion for the Jackets. I feel your pain when they falter. And I can assure you, I will share your joy when the Jackets find themselves healthy and playing some exciting hockey.
In the meantime, I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving!