You know you’re getting older when the news clipping you’re using to brag about your coverage of a hockey team, and why you’re advocating people as to why they should keep reading your coverage, is yellowing.
For you kids out there, that picture you see above is from a thing called a “newspaper.” It was a form of written communication, used by humans from the early 1700s to, well, some are still around today. People would crush up trees, refine them into long sheets of paper and people with titles such as “reporter” and “editor” would print news and pictures on it, and customers would pay money to read it. Then, things changed.
That particular picture is from a story I wrote for the Feb. 18, 1995, edition of a newspaper called The Denver Post, and I like to think it is the Rosetta Stone of Colorado Avalanche history. That was the first reported instance of the possibility that the Quebec Nordiques of the NHL might move to Denver. That was my scoop, as a part-time writer and clerk at the paper. I was what was called a “stringer” for the paper, someone who wrote articles on things like high school sports and some minor-league pro teams and college teams – whatever anyone at the paper wanted me to do, I’d do. But I wasn’t a full-time staff writer, with a salary and benefits and all that. I think I got $40 for that story you see above you.
The story didn’t end there, of course. That was just the beginning of a three-month chase for the next story, which was: will Denver get the Nordiques or won’t it? I was to spend approximately 20 of 24 hours of every day for those next three months on the telephone (ones with cords coming out of them, into a wall, the long-distance bills were insane) calling anyone and everyone who I thought might give me some insight as to whether it would happen or not.
On the night of May 24, 1995, I got a call from a source I’d been practically stalking every day in those three months:
“The team is ours. You can write it now,” the source said.
I looked up and down for that May 25, 1995, edition of the Post (I know it’s somewhere in my mountain of old newspaper stories) but couldn’t find it. Here’s an AP story from that day, though, I dug up online:
That was my scoop too. Two weeks later, I got the full-time, staff job as beat writer of the new NHL team (it didn’t have a name yet. They would become the “Colorado Avalanche” on Aug. 10). In February of 1995, I was covering things like high-school swimming. By September of 1995, I was riding on the newly-named Avalanche’s team plane on their first-ever road trip, a preseason trip that started in Cornwall, Ontario. In the first of what would be many, many barbs tossed my way by the team’s captain, a guy named Joe Sakic, I was immediately chastised for the light jacket – basically, a windbreaker – I’d brought on the trip.
“You’re gonna need an overcoat,” Sakic said, shaking his head at me in a piteous way.
I bought the overcoat at our second stop on the trip – Montreal.
What a fun trip that was – some quick memories: Owen Nolan exchanging about $2,000 in American money for its Canadian equivalent, at a hotel in Hamilton, Ontario, like it was nothing; seeing the Avalanche uniforms for the first time, at the game in Cornwall against Montreal; getting some pointers on the game from a defenseman named Steven Finn, who would soon be traded; hearing the ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ from fans in Montreal after Peter Forsberg made a couple of Forsberg-ian moves in the preseason game at the old Montreal Forum; covering a game at the old Hartford Civic Center against the Whalers, with my dad and his longtime friend (and mine) Marko watching from the stands; standing on the visiting players’ bench at the old Maple Leaf Gardens at the morning skate for a preseason game there, being asked questions on the status of holdout Avs player and former Leafs legend Wendel Clark by none other than Bob McKenzie and another hockey media legend named Frank Orr.
What a fun ride it’s been since that first Avs preseason trip, too. There have been highs and lows for both the Avs and me personally along the way. Somehow, some way, we’re still together. Which brings me to why I’m writing to you here:
I am asking you to subscribe to Colorado Hockey Now, where I will be working starting today covering the Avalanche. What is Colorado Hockey Now? It’s a new site that’s part of a growing new network of sites devoted exclusively to covering specific NHL hockey teams in their respective cities – and anything else hockey-related in or near those cities. There are already two sites up and running in Pittsburgh and Boston – Pittsburghhockeynow.com and Bostonhockeynow.com – with plans for many more.
I know some of you might have some, what I’ll call, “subscription fatigue.” Believe me, I get it. Everybody and their brother wants a couple bucks a month, at least, from you now, to use their “product.”
“It’s only the cost of a gas station cup of coffee per month. C’mon people, show us the money, we’re worth it!”
I’m sick of that kind of marketing pitch too. Why should I shell out for “content”, much of which can be found freely across the Internet? What makes you so special?
OK, so here’s my pitch as to why you should shell out $29.99 for a year’s worth of content from Colorado Hockey Now (or, $3.49 a month, in which case you’d pay a bit more, and the lesson from that: it’s always cheaper in the long run to buy in bulk):
- This is gonna be my site. I don’t own all of it, but a lot of it, it, and everything you see on it will be my call. Everything you read from me will be in my style. I’m the editor-in-chief of Colorado Hockey Now. I won’t have someone looking over my shoulder, telling me that “hey, maybe the general public out there doesn’t get that reference. If you could take it out, that’d be great.” (True story: I once used an “Octopus’s Garden” song reference in a story at the Post, from a Red Wings-Avs playoff game – they have Octopus in Detroit, remember? – and an editor told me “I don’t know if the general person out there knows who the Beatles are” and it was axed).
There won’t be any of that dumbed-down stuff on Colorado Hockey Now. Does this mean I’m going to indulge in every obscure, long-forgotten pop culture reference and make it all about me and my life in every story? Oh hell no. It’s going to be straight-ahead, 24/7 coverage of the Colorado Avalanche in the only way I know how to do it, which is very intensely, very competitively and very much attuned to what I think you, the boss, the reader, wants to read. Some don’t like my style. Some will say “I’d rather have bamboo shoots stuck up my fingernails than read Dater all the time”, and I get that too. You can’t please everyone. I’m fully prepared for this to fail miserably. And if it happens, so be it. At least I’ll be able to look at myself in the mirror and say “At least you tried to be your own boss for once in your life.” That’s very important to me. I didn’t want to be that guy who sits there at the end of his life and says, “I was too chicken.” I’ve had a good run in this business, no matter what, and nobody can take that away.
- A very important thing here: I will be credentialed to cover the Avalanche in 2019-20. That means I can get into the buildings and into the locker rooms. I will be talking to the players, coaches and management where they work, as it happens, just like I always have. I won’t be just opining from the couch, cut off from the team. This isn’t gonna be some gofundme thing, where I’m basically out there begging for unearned scraps just because. I’ll be working my ass off for your money. I would like you to think of me as a farmer for a second. I now have my own plot of land and will be growing my own crops. It’s up to me to bring my product to market and get the best price I can for it. If it’s not good enough, then, by all means, I don’t deserve to be paid for it.
- But I know I still have good contacts/sources around this team and this sport. I’m always – always – hungry to break the stories first, and now that I’m my own boss for the first time since pretty much ever – you can bet your last dollar I’ll be just as hungry for the stories as I’ve ever been.
- Is it just going to be you, Dater, doing everything? Won’t you get exhausted by the 10th game or so. You’re no spring chicken, you know.
Great question. The short answer is: probably at the start, yeah. I’ll be doing everything. But honestly, it’s not much different than it ever was with me. I’ve had partners covering the Avs before, but I was always the main workhorse on the day-to-day stuff. Will there be a day I don’t have a daily story? Maybe, though knowing how I am, probably not too often. I like to keep busy. Writing comes easy to me. It’s a way I relieve stress, so I like to do it. Do I need rest? Yep, I’m human, and I am getting older.
The goal here at Colorado Hockey Now is for me to bring in a sharp young person or two and add to the coverage. I will be the one doing the hiring on that, so any of you prospective hungry hockey writers out there, here’s what’s what: If I think you have the chops to write and/or “produce content”, be it maybe video/broadcast form as well, I might be calling on you. I’d groom you, tell all kinds of “back in my day” war stories til your eyes glaze over and, hopefully, get you to the point where you can inherit this site and continue on covering this great franchise.
I’ll be 55 in January. If I’m still trying to be a beat writer by 60 or so, I hereby ask any and all of you to please grab me by the elbow and gently walk me off the stage. I mean that. Yeah, maybe that’s selling myself short, but I don’t think so. It’ll be time for me to retreat to my corner and listen to my old Kiss records and read books I’ve been putting off for too long, by then.
- Again, this site will be Avalanche/Colorado hockey only. The money you give won’t go toward subsidizing the coverage of other sports you don’t care about. There are no lazy bureaucrats to whom your money would go. No matter how much subscriber money that comes in, it won’t be going toward fancy hotels and $200 steak dinners at Morton’s (I’ve had a lot of both, and – ok, they’re just fine – but in the end, overrated). It’ll go toward me and a couple of partners with the Hockey Now sites being able to put enough rice in our rice bowls, keeping the lights on and just delivering the best product possible. There will be podcasts and videocasts and things like that as well. I plan on trying a bunch of new things actually, things I always wanted to try but always had someone “above” me telling me no. Some will work, some won’t. Some stories on this site will be free to read, from beginning to end. Probably not a ton, but some.
- Will you be traveling, Dater? As much as possible, yes. I’ll be at the NHL Draft next weekend in Vancouver, for instance. I’ll be there when the Avs announce their picks and bringing you the best stories on them I can and digging for the latest gossip on free agency and trades, etc. etc.. I also plan to be very, very, very interactive with all of you who subscribe. I will ask you a lot “what story do you want me to write today, on what players?” Whatever you want, I’ll then do. I will do a lot of Q and A sessions with you. You’ll be the bosses of what you want from me. I won’t just be up on my high white horse, unresponsive to what you want.
Travel costs are where things can get dicey and pricey for a startup enterprise as this, though. Your $29.99 a year may be enough to subsidize the costs for a lot of travel to 41 regular-season road games and (hopefully) many more in the playoffs. Then again, you never know. That’s why I’m soon implementing a “Travel Tip Jar” as part of the site. This is the place where, if you want, you can give a bit more than the yearly subscription price (I had a lot of people offer that at my last place of employment, with people saying stuff like “dude, that’s all you’re charging for what I’m getting? I would give more if you wanted”). Well, now you can. I will be giving you lots of personal shoutouts if you give to the tip jar. An entire road trip might be “Sponsored by (You)” and you’ll get any perks I can legally give you in return.
My 100 percent, swear-on-my-son’s-head vow to you: Any money put in the travel tip jar will be distributed as follows: 95 cents of every dollar to the cost of getting to and from Avs road games and 5 cents to the Thornton Food Bank, the town where I live in Colorado. It’s long been my charity of choice, and believe me, there is always a need to give food to the hungry here.
I only stay in the most affordable Airbnb’s now I can find (ones that aren’t meth houses, that is, which some of you out there know what I’m talking about). I’ve been in all the fancy hotels out there you can name and…overrated. I eat cheap. Give me five bucks for some hamburger and rice, maybe a bottle of Worcestershire sauce, to cook on the stove back at the Airbnb and I’m just fine. I buy the cheapest flights available, period. Always have.
Today is the start of a new chapter, as they say. I hope you’ll come with me and help with how it reads. This is going to be a good, fun, exciting team for a good while to come. I want to be the one to keep telling you, for a little longer anyway, the ongoing history of the Colorado Avalanche.