Monday, August 20, 2012

Georgia On My Mind

I've got good news, and I've got bad news. I'll give you the bad news first, since some of you already know it anyway. I will not be returning to the Cottonmouths this season. After a five-year run here, the time came for me to move on. I initially came here just to be a part of Craig Stahl's final season (which turned into his final 3 seasons). After he retired, I thought about following suit. But I wasn't ready to call it a career yet. Then after the following season I really felt like we were close to a championship and I was looking forward to what we would do last season. Well, you all know how last season turned out. Now, with my first professional championship under my belt (thanks to Boom Boom and the boys), it's time for me to move on.

So, with that in mind, I'm finally ready to announce my next move. I've just accepted the job as Equipment Manager for the Evansville Icemen of the ECHL. I'm pretty excited about it. They played in the Central Hockey League last season, but made the jump to the ECHL for this season. Their travel schedule is actually pretty decent. They have a new building (The Ford Center, opened just last season). All in all, it's a pretty good setup. I'm looking forward to it.

But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't going to miss Columbus. This team, this organization, is pretty special. I've been working in hockey for 23 years now, and I've never worked for better owners than we have here. Wanda and Shelby care about the team and always treat everybody like part of the family. That means a lot to people who spend most of the year away from their families. So for that I thank them.

Additionally, I'd like to thank Jerome for bringing me here in the first place and for giving me the chance to be a part of something pretty special. Like the Amos', Jerome treats everybody like family. I have had the chance to meet some extraordinary people in this game, and I would put Jerome high on that list. Columbus is lucky to have him.

I'd also like to thank the office staff; Jason Bray, Erin Thames, Whitney Mixon, and Lindsey Gierer. They were always willing to help with anything and exemplified teamwork and cooperation. I'll miss all of them.

Next, I'd like to thank all of the players I worked with during my time here. You made my 5 years very special. We had a great group of guys each year, and I hated saying goodbye each year as much as I enjoyed welcoming the new guys each year. They exhibited great character (and some of them were great characters) and I was proud to work with them. I'll miss them and think about them warmly and often.

Also, thanks to Hannah Peterson, the Cottonmouths' Trainer. She was a pleasure to work with. She's a good trainer and was a great friend.

I know I've mentioned them before, but I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the equipment staff. Flip, Shooter, Barney, Ryno, T-Mac, Bubba, and Mike did a great job for the Snakes, and I appreciated everything they did. They helped make this job a true pleasure. I'll miss them most of all.

Finally, I'd like to thank the fans. Columbus has the greatest fans and I had the great pleasure to meet many of you. Everybody here treated me very well and I appreciate it greatly.

For my final blog before I leave Columbus, I'd like to do a top 5 list of my favorite Cottonmouth moments. 

#5 - Legends weekend 2008. This was my first experience with this type of game, and though it was a lot of work it was worth it in the end. It was very cool to see all the old players come back, and I really liked the throwback jerseys we wore. It was a long weekend but a lot of fun.

#4 - Snakes @ Fireantz, December 2010. The week before Christmas, we had a game in Fayetteville. We weren't doing well in the standings, and Fireantz Coach Tommy Stewart made some comments in the paper calling us the worst team in the league. Trailing 3-1 in the second, Jerome called a timeout and read the boys the riot act. We came out hitting after that and a particularly hard hit by Jeff MacPhee touched off a line brawl. We then proceeded to come back and win the game just to spite Stewy for making those comments about us. It was a great game to watch. There were nice goals, great saves, a big comeback, a line brawl...a little something for everybody.

#3 - Snakes Vs. Ice Flyers, 12/2/11. The Ken Porter game. We were a little short-handed due to injuries and call-ups, so we turned to the Army for help. As luck would have it, Fort Benning was the home base of Captain Ken Porter, who had played hockey at West Point before reporting for duty. Not only did he fill in admirably, he scored the winning goal in his first game with us (with his family in attendance). It was the kind of story that even Hollywood can't make up. It was very special to be a part of it.

#2 - Craig Stahl retirement ceremony. It was cool to see the Chief in a Snakes uniform one last time. It was bittersweet, to be sure, but it was nice to see all the old teammates that came out to celebrate his Cottonmouths career. It was a very moving tribute to a guy who meant a whole lot to the team...and to me. It was an honor to be here for the last three years of his career and a pleasure to see his jersey number hung to the rafters.

#1 - I'm sure there's no surprise here, but my number one moment of my five seasons here was winning the President's Cup (Just look at this picture.) Actually, it was more than that. It was the whole playoff run and the stretch run to get to the playoffs. Including 6 for 6 in the playoffs, we won 20 of our last 24 games (going all the way back to February 4th). That's a pretty impressive run. And it was so much fun to be a part of.

And with that, it's time to ride off into the sunset. It's been a thin slice of heaven living here for the last 5 years. You stay classy, Columbus.