Next steps and rejoining The Athletic: My pledge to cover hockey differently

Four months ago, when I left my part-time position as a writer-editor with The Athletic, I did so hesitantly.

Two years earlier, Brett Popplewell – he of the most talent in this country at turning sports into storytelling – convinced me that if ever I was given the opportunity to step out of my comfort zone in sports journalism that I should do it. Experience covering crime scenes and daily news at the Toronto Star helped him develop equal parts as a writer and researcher, he told me.

And I believed him.

And now I’d been offered a pair of summer internships with The Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star, two publications I grew up reading and dreamt of writing for.

Still, I was hesitant.

The last thing a 22-year-old kid fresh out of J-School wants to do in Canada’s small journalism industry is burn bridges. So when I approached The Athletic’s resident bosses James Mirtle and Sean Fitzgerald to tell them I wanted in, but only after I tried something else, I feared I could be doing just that. You don’t say you want in and then leave. That’s not how this works.

But I was wrong. They got it. And the same two people who took a risk on me half a year earlier wanted me to grow somewhere else. (Fitz even told me Jennifer Quinn, my new boss at The Star, would be the best editor I’d ever had.)

That’s the kind of faith both of them (and the entire team at The Athletic) have put in this project. They want to develop good people who make better content.

Today, I’m better for it.

They’ve trusted in you, the reader, to return the faith.

Now they’ve trusted in me, again, to live up to that high bar. And I’m all-in. I am indebted to them; to Fitz and Mirtle and co-founders Adam Hansmann and Alex Mather.

Starting September 5, I’ll be writing across The Athletic’s vertical as a national prospects writer while also covering the Marlies (and the Leafs) full-time for the Toronto edition.

My pledge to you is simple and ambitious.

On the Marlies beat, I want to give you the best coverage the team has ever had. I want to tell careful stories and provide poignant analysis. There is room to cover the team in new, refreshing ways.

As a national prospects writer, I will take all of the scouting I’ve been doing over the last few years with Future Considerations and McKeen’s Hockey and bring it into the public sphere.

I will not be returning as a scout with the talented team at FC for the 2017-18 season. Instead, my rankings and scouting reports will all be published as I endeavour to make The Athletic your destination for the NHL Draft.

I will be in the rink more than ever, without the conflict of several jobs or school. Along the way, I want to provide thorough analysis that pays proper credence to the complexity of dynamic teenaged hockey players.

I will try to cut through the noise, the jargon, and the clichés to provide descriptive, nuanced evaluations.

The coverage won’t stop at the NHL Draft though, either.

Staying true to The Athletic’s hyper-local model, I will be reporting-on and analyzing prospects for all of the teams we cover.

It will mean covering opposing AHL teams when they roll through Ricoh Coliseum. It will mean covering prospects from other NHL organizations when they visit Oshawa, Barrie, and Mississauga in the OHL — rinks I hope to be in a lot. And ultimately, it will mean travelling to watch and evaluate other leagues and marquee events like the World Juniors, filling in European viewing gaps with continued video work.

In turn, I hope you can invest the same faith in me and the product that Mirtle and Fitz and so many other talented writers have by subscribing and continuing to provide feedback.

In exchange, I hope to cover hockey differently.

You can subscribe to The Athletic at 20 per cent off here.

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One comment

  1. Timbo · August 16

    Go get em, Wheels. I’m already on board.

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