On my sofa this beautiful Friday morning, Snakes fans, after a whirlwind week unlike any I've known in 10 years covering the Snakes.
In the one week since the Shannon Szabados rumors started until her plane touched down on Wednesday night at the Columbus Airport, I've been consumed with all things Shannon. Emails were flying among my editor, Kevin Price, my girl Stephanie Pedersen, in consultation with the big boss Dimon Kendrick-Holmes...and yours truly.
What do we want to do? Sports or A-1? (I always have the answer to that...lol). I have to take credit...:) The meeting her at the airport was my idea...yay, me. Arranging that was tough as it took phone calls and emails to nail down her arrival time, but persistence pays off. I thought it came out great. Kudos to photographer Joe Paull and the four amigos...Shannon, Kyle Johnson, Jordan Draper and Andy Willigar for your patience and cooperation. Don't ya'all love the photo in front of the Riverwalk mural? My idea, too. Creativity over for a while...haha.
The scene at the airport was fun, but surreal. The Columbus airport is pretty quiet at 8 o'clock at night, believe me. I went up to the Delta counter and, bless their hearts, the guys looked so thrilled to be talking to somebody other than each other. haha. They were so helpful and friendly. One guy even escorted me to the area in which I could wait for Shannon. By this time, I've alerted my new BFF that there was a celebrity on board and word quickly passed around the airport. Everybody stopped what they were not doing to watch the arrival drama.
Never miss a local story.
Joe had arrived by now, followed by Shannon, followed by her three college pals. We were at baggage claim by this time and the jubilant reunion of the three friends was followed by our wait for her bags. So impressive that she got all of her stuff into two bags, one rather large duffle bag and her equipment bag. Let me just say that I've seen plenty of sports equipment bags, but this one was the size of Rhode Island. Even the guys went...wow!...but Shannon quickly pointed out that her pads, glove, blocker, etc took up quite a bit of room...haha.
While Shannon was catching up with the guys, I spotted city councilor Gary Allen, who just happens to be my friend Gwen's brother. Gary told me a great story about the brief plane ride he shared with Shannon. He and fellow passengers were doing the usual airplane chat...Hi, where are you from? What is your name? What do you do for a living? Uh...Shannon told them why she was headed to Columbus. Can't imagine the looks on their faces...lol
The four amigos headed to their apartments and I went home to get the story in. Step one completed. Next on the agenda was the press conference. A couple of local TV stations were there, a good number of Snakes fans and a reporter and photographer from the New York Times. Can you say the SPHL, Columbus Cottonmouths and Columbus, GA are officially on the map? I'd say so.
The writer, Karen Crouse flew in earlier and said she almost staked out the Cols airport waiting for Shannon. (Whew...glad you didn't, Karen...haha). Her photog Kevin Liles is out of Griffin, GA and is a free-lancer.
I do have one issue with Karen's excellent story. The SPHL is a Single-A, minor-league, professional hockey league, not a regional men's senior league as she described it. Those of us who have been involved with this league for 10 years have seen it evolve in every way a league can grow and improve and have fought like crazy against the 'beer league' tag. UGH. :(
Shannon handled the press conference with ease and grace, like she's been in the spotlight her whole life...which she kind of has. She's been an elite goalie since she was 16 and playing juniors and played on men's teams for her whole career with two notable exceptions...Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014.
The biggest and most horrible news not yet reported is...the gold medal Shannon earned in Sochi did not make the trip with her. Sadly, Olympic groupies like myself won't get the chance to see it, hold it, slobber over it...lol.
Shannon went through a typical game day skate with her new team yesterday. She did take some shots but at this moment is participating in her first 'real' practice. Shortly thereafter, Jerome Bechard will make the worst kept secret in Columbus official. Shannon will start tomorrow night vs the Knoxville Ice Bears.
This is such a monumental moment for women in sports, women's hockey, men's hockey, SPHL hockey, pro hockey in general, Columbus, GA, the Columbus Cottonmouths and all of us associated in any shape or form with this event. I can't wait and hope our city and its citizens come out in force to witness history. Time to pack the Pit and cheer on Shannon and the Snakes. If it's your first time to experience hockey, you'll love it! Trust me.
I'm afraid I've got to rush as I have a movie date with my Reese and I'm not exactly appropriately dressed. Shoes are required and pajamas not good...
If you saw last night's game, you know there's not much to say about it. But I'll say a couple: Pensacola is good...really good. The Snakes can be good, but they weren't last night. It was humbling and a definite reality check as to the playoff road ahead. They'll have to be a whole lot better if they plan to advance past round one.
See ya'all on Saturday night!