Good morning to my people!! How have ya'all been? If anyone dares to ask where I've been, that means you haven't read the zillion signing stories I've done this summer. Yikes. A couple more to come, including one pretty big surprise.
Before I get to SPHL hockey...how 'bout them Dawgs? :) Would love to see last night's game again...knowing the outcome. It was an awesome game, especially for any of you without a Dawg in the fight. For UGA fans, it was exquisite torture...haha. Now time for the Falcons to RISE UP on a national stage. I love football. :)
Much as I love football, I'm that excited about our 10th season in the SPHL. It seems like yesterday (that's what old folks say) that I sat in Jerome's office...July 2004...with Jerome Bechard and Ryan Aikia and talked about the upcoming season. Great to see Ryan the Legend when he comes to town. Excellent way for me to stay in contact with a lot of the guys. Legends Weekend and facebook...lol
The most significant thing about the upcoming season is that we all have a healthy Jerome behind the bench. If ya'all remember, I said last season that something was wrong. Jerome just wasn't the same. I didn't know at the time that it was his health, but I was very concerned about him.
To look at him now, you would never know that the man had open heart surgery less than four months ago. He looks like the picture of health...and he is! When he went to Dr. Chen at Emory at the end of July, he was cleared to return to his normal activities.
Speaking of Dr. Chen, he is now a fan...haha. He couldn't believe it when Jerome told him that I was at Emory tweeting from the waiting room. Jerome said..."some people back home think I'm kind of a big deal." That's an understatement. The man moved here in the fall of 1996 and now he could run for mayor. Don't worry, Mayor Tomlinson...haven't heard any plans for a Bechard candidacy. :)
When he went up to Emory in late July for his checkup, Jerome took a copy of the story I wrote where he, Rhonda and Wanda reflected on the experience. He said Dr. Chen got a real kick out of it. As I said...a new fan.
I haven't talked to Brad Prefontaine about it yet, but we need a plan in place to (try to) control Jerome's emotions during the games. Some kind of signal, warning to him that he needs to calm down. Maybe a kick-o-meter to tally the mule kicks. Seriously, he needs to watch his blood pressure, which seems a daunting task for a hockey coach.
As much as I look forward to the first day of training camp, there is a certain sadness this year. Can't believe I won't see Ian Vigier, Orrin Hergott and Sam Bowles. There are others who left, of course, but these three are fixtures in the Snakes camp and all three are my go-to guys.
Every beat writer has them. These are the guys who you can go to no matter what...tough game, loss, fight, whatever. Goalies are great to have for your go-to guys. During those games when you look over your notes and the scoring and think...I've got nothing!!...you can always count on your goalies for some colorful quotes and good analysis. I've always been lucky to have Chad Rycroft, Ian and Andrew Loewen. Even as rookies, all of the above were willing and able to help. Andrew...are you ready?
Orrin was one of those guys who would give honest, thoughtful responses to even the toughest questions. I'll always be grateful when 11 choked out a few responses on the night of his good friend Craig Stahl's last game. Sammy is also good at gritting his teeth and being polite and helpful even when things didn't go so well.
Derek Pallardy has also moved on to a big boy job. Derek was the only player I requested who came out and talked to me after a disappointing playoff loss last season. Thanks, Derek!
Fortunately, I have Andrew and Tom Maldonado as early candidates for my go-to guys. Both are mature, intelligent and thoughtful. My gut tells me that Matt Gingera will also be a possibility. He's a good talker, has a good sense of humor and I think would do well, if he's willing.
Not everybody loves to talk to me. I know that's stunning to hear...lol...but not all of the guys have positive feelings about the media. The young guys worry too much about what I want them to say. I have to work to earn their trust and respect and have absolutely no problem doing so. :)
I look forward to getting back in the swing of things with my pals at the rink. I couldn't do my job without their help and support. Paul Ezell's official job is to escort and protect the referees down in the tunnel, but he's also my timekeeper and friend. Paul just got a well-deserved promotion at the Columbus Police Department. Yay, Paul!!
My loyal assistant Kevin Mills brings me stat sheets in between periods and we routinely have our pregame conference where we solve the problems of the world, team and SPHL. Pretty sure no other beat writer has the help I do!!
Chris and Lori Icenhour have done the amazing video for the team for 9 years. They've become friends and Lori even did our family portrait a few years ago.
Of course, there are many fans whom I consider friends. I sit with Miss Flit and Joe Simmons in the handicapped section behind the Snakes' bench. We share a love for hockey and banana pudding. They are delightful people and I can't wait to see them!!
Our family friends, the Hendricks family, sit right in front of Reese and Larry. Mary Beth and I are colleagues at CSU and she was best friends with my youngest sister when the two were in second grade! Talk about circle of life...haha. Harlan, Sarah (Go Dawgs!) and my man Nathan will be cheering on the Snakes again this season.
My new friends Tami Neese, her daughters and my buddy Joseph will be in attendance! I met them at a game a few years ago. They are rabid hockey fans and devoted readers. :)
I'm hoping a new grandson doesn't keep Dave Kessler from the rink. Surely he got a ticket for Kipp. Dave and his friend Danny Spencer are also friends and readers. Dave is tops in Reese's books because the two share a love for Krispy Kreme doughnuts.
Juan Mora and family will be back banging on the glass as usual. The Sieg family, the Kelley sibs, Amy Kennedy, Art Barker and too many others to mention form a core group of loyal Snakes fans whom I've come to know over the years. Can't wait to see ya'all!
Training camp opens on Sunday as the players gather for their physicals and meetings. They hit the ice on Monday morning, the 14th and I'll be there! Will have twitter updates from each camp session and a blog recap each night. :)
Welcome to another season, everyone!