Saturday, December 31, 2011

Reflecting on 2011.

After an extremely difficult 2010, I am happy to say that 2011 was a great year both personally and professionally.

In January my Dad and I took a father-son trip to Phoenix together and spent lots of time golfing, eating, drinking and watching hockey at the arena. We saw the Phoenix Coyotes defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs and Anaheim Ducks before losing to San Jose. We also watched the Phoenix Suns battle the Portland Trail Blazers. Anytime you get to see Steve Nash play basketball, you simply must take advantage of the opportunity.

The Battlefords North Stars hockey season ended sooner than anybody had hoped or planned for, but regardless of the outcome it was another enjoyable season in the Battlefords. It was a pleasuring hosting the SJ This Week with Martin Smith, and I had the joy of hosting the SJHL This Week radio show as well. Little did I know that I had called my final SJHL game in mid-March in Flin Flon. The Bombers defeated the Battlefords North Stars 3-2 in Game Four with Ashton Bernard scoring the series-clinching goal.

The greatest personal moment of 2011 occured in early April in Edmonton. It was there after a 2-0 Vancouver Canucks loss to Edmonton where I proposed to Julie Larson after nearly three years together. She accepted my proposal and agreed to marry me in June of 2012. Nearly eight full months later and I have not once questioned my decision.

It was an incredibly enjoyable summer. The major highlight for me was a road-trip that I took to Las Vegas with Julie, and our friends Steve and Michelle. Together we made our way from Saskatoon to Las Vegas in a Dodge Caravan and had the time of our lives. While Vegas was incredible, I think we'd all agree that we had just as much fun discovering Montana, Idaho and Utah. It was an unforgettable trip and I look forward to many more adventures together.

In late July I went camping with some friends in Meota, SK. It was during a concert that night when I learned that Ken Pearson was leaving the Battlefords to return to Winkler to coach. Little did I know that I would soon be making a similar decision of enormous difficulty.

On the Friday afternoon right before we set out for Meota, I had learned about a vacancy within the Prince George Cougars organization. The Cougars were looking for their next play-by-play broadcaster. Getting to the Western Hockey League had always been a dream of mine, and everything about Prince George made sense in my mind.

That being said, I didn't apply with a ton of confidence. A year earlier I had sent out four different applications for WHL positions and all of them were turned down without much dialogue or debate.

I remember telling my friends around a camp fire that weekend in Meota that, "Prince George makes a ton of sense. But 23 things have to go right here, and we're on number three."

I sent my application the following Monday.

48 hours later I was offered the job.

I often tell people that leaving Saskatchewan was a lot tougher than people realize, but after lengthy discussions with Julie, my friends, my colleagues and my Dad, I knew that it was the right decision to make. At around 7:30 PM on Monday evening, Julie told me "Make the Call" and I did.

Prior to the move I got to enjoy a quick trip to Seattle and also a tremendous engagement party that was hosted by my Dad. These two events helped get me ready for the transition to a new stage in my career and in my life.

The transition from North Battleford to Prince George has been incredibly eventful, but I can honestly say that I've embraced every challenge, every joy, every struggle and every new experience that has come our way.

I am learning something new every day and I am so blessed to be a part of the Prince George Cougars organization. The entire organization has welcomed me from the get-go. They've helped steer me in the right direction and have provided a ton of support to both Julie and I.

I will never forget the feeling of watching the clock hit 'zero' and seeing the Prince George Cougars defeat the Kamloops Blazers 1-0 in my WHL broadcasting debut. Since then I've called some exciting victories and some devastating losses, but the thrill never wears off.

I've been fortunate to meet a ton of great people in my short time in Prince George, and I look forward to strengthening these friendships over the course of time. To all of my fellow WHL broadcasters - Thanks for your help and guidance. I have learned so much from you and I aspire to be like you all in some way shape or form.

I am so proud of Julie for taking an enormous leap of faith and joining me on this journey. She continues to inspire me on a daily basis, and her support has meant so much to me during this time of transition.

My Dad has also been a huge pillar of strength for me. One of the greatest perks about this move was the being closer to him and I have greatly enjoyed the time that we've been able to spend together over the past few months.

To all of my friends both near and far, I am incredibly grateful for your support. Your friendship means more to me than you could ever possibly understand, and I look forward to many more years together.

To all of you who helped make 2011 an unforgettable year for me: Thank you. To the Prince George Cougars staff, players and fans: Thank you for welcoming me in, and allowing me to be a part of your team and your city.

Here's to a successful 2012 both professionally and personally. Thanks for reading and supporting this blog. Your readership means more than you'll ever know.

Dan O'Connor
Voice of the Cougars

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