Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Season One Reflections.

To all readers,

First and foremost I want to extend a heartfelt 'thank you' to all of you who regularly visited my blog during the 2011-2012 Prince George Cougars season. Admittedly I was not as active on the blog as I would have liked to have been, but I am proud that this blog has been active for four full hockey seasons now. I can honestly say that I didn't have those kind of expectations when I started it, and it's neat to double-back and read some old entries as well as some recent ones. But enough about the blog.

I've been using the past 10 days or so to reflect on the season that was, and also the future that will be for the Prince George Cougars. I admit that it's a tough feeling watching WHL playoff highlights, and reading WHL previews knowing full well that the Cougars aren't a part of the discussion. The rink feels a lot different without the youthful energy of the Prince George Cougars players, and I definitely miss making the walk downstairs for my interviews and my interactions with the guys.

Admittedly this whole season was a bit of a whirlwind for me. I started with the Cougars on August 22nd, and training camp started the very next weekend. There were several bumps along the road, but by the time September 24th rolled around I felt familiar and confident enough with my knowledge of the Prince George Cougars to put a compelling broadcast on the air.

September 24th, 2011 in Kamloops marked my first of what would be 71 broadcasts in 2011-2012. The Prince George Cougars blanked the Blazers 1-0 thanks to a 32 save shutout from newly acquired goaltender Drew Owsley. It was the first time in six years of hockey broadcasting that I had ever called an opening night victory, and to do so on this stage, in that rink was a very special feeling.

Some broadcasting highlights of the season for me included:

- Calling games in Prince Albert and Saskatoon alongside my good friends and colleagues, Cody Nickolet and Matt Ryan. It was great being back in Saskatchewan so quickly after leaving in August. It was awesome getting a chance to visit with some friends, and experience the WHL with them close by.

- My first broadcast at the historic Rink on Renfrew in Vancouver. I vividly remember watching my first ever NHL game at the Pacific Coliseum, and growing up nearby, I watched a ton of games from that building. It was an honor to call a game from the same booth as the likes of Jim Robson, Jim Hugheson, and Bob Cole. Similar to Saskatchewan, I had a lot of close friends and family attend the games in Vancouver, and I am so grateful for their moral support and friendship. Next year I can't wait to call my first victory in that building!

- Perhaps one of the most fun stretches occured in early December, when the Cougars defeated Portland at home in overtime on December 7th and then went to Seattle and Spokane and won both of their games on the road that weekend. The Spokane game on December 10th sticks out for obvious reasons. The Cougars went into the third period down 3-0 to a Spokane team that appeared to be firing on all cylinders. But the Cougars had other ideas. Alex Forsberg, Jordan Tkatch, and Spencer Asuchak scored third period goals to tie it, and then Cody Carlson scored the shootout winner to lead the Cougars to a 4-3 victory in front of a sold-out crowd in Spokane. That game was easily the first-half highlight for yours truly, and I'm sure for many others as well.

- Trips to Victoria and Portland were also very memorable. I greatly enjoyed the trip to Victoria because of the beautiful scenery and vibrancy of the city, while Portland was great because of my overall love for the state of Oregon. For those that don't know, I'm a pretty big Oregon Ducks fan, and getting a chance to visit their team store alone was a really cool experience. Of course I'll also remember the trip to Portland because of the 'cell phone broadcast.' At the time, it was a living hell, but looking back I'm pleased to say that we got every second of the game on the air, and I never received any hate mail!

- The second-half highlight took place in Kennwick, Washington on Tuesday, March 13th. The Prince George Cougars erased a 3-1 defecit to the top team in the Western Conference, and then skated to a 5-4 overtime victory thanks to some overtime heroics from captain Jesse Forsberg. That victory kept the Cougars playoff hopes alive, and gave them hope heading into the final weekend of the season. It was so nice to see Drew Owsley earn a victory against his former team.

There are so many people who I'd like to thank for the role that they played in my first of what will hopefully be many seasons behind the mic for the Prince George Cougars.

First off I want to thank my family. I owe an equal amount of thanks to my wife-to-be Julie and also to my Dad.

Julie boldly left a comfortable life in Saskatchewan to accompany me to Northern B.C. She had no job prospects, and no real knowledge of Prince George, other than the fact that it meant a dream opportunity for me. She is now working full-time in Prince George in her profession of choice, and is doing some great things. I am so proud of her, and I am so glad she was rewarded to her efforts and her patience.

To My Dad who proudly calls himself the 'travelling Cougars fan.' One of the major perks of moving back to B.C. was the fact that I was now a whole lot closer to my Dad. Having recently lost my Mom to cancer in 2010, it meant a lot to me to be closer to him. We got to spend some true quality time together over the course of my WHL travels this year, and I'm very happy that we got to spend his birthday together in Kamloops. His support of the Cougars means an awful lot to me, and I'm so thankful for the many parents who helped make him feel welcome at the games.

The Prince George Cougars Hockey Operations staff has been amazing. I'm forever indepted to the Brodsky family, Dallas Thompson, Wade Klippenstein, Dean Clark, Jason Becker, Brent Arsenault, Phil Guenter, Chico Dhanjal and the entire group of Prince George Cougars scouts for making me feel welcome from the very beginning. It is an honor to represent the Cougars organization alongside all of you, and I look forward to many future successes together.

To the office staff who I spent a majority of my non-hockey time with. Amy, Shannon, Bev, Kathy and Judy were all so wonderful to work with, and I'm happy that I was able to fit in with them so smoothly. I want to wish both Judy and Shannon all of the best on their future endeavors. You both deserve all of the happiness and success that is bound to come your way.

I owe a huge amount of thanks to my fellow broadcasters and Media Relations coordinators in the Western Hockey League. So many of you went the extra-mile to make me feel welcomed in your city. It was a very gratifying experience getting a chance to meet you all and share some laughs and some stories with you. Thanks for your wisdom, guidance, interview help and most importantly making the new guy feel at home in the WHL.

- To the Cougars bus-driver/photographer Ralph Posteraro. You got us from A to B safely and promptly all season long. Thank you so much for braving the elements, staying awake and ensuring that the Prince George Cougars reached their various destinations. Thanks for being one of the main driving forces behind the Prince George Cougars.

- I want to thank the media for their coverage this season. Thank you for attending our press conferences and games throughout the season. I'm glad I got the chance to get to know you guys.

- To the many corporate sponsors of the Cougars. Your contribution is obvious, yet is oh-so important. Thanks for trusting me/us to promote your businesses. And here's to a successful 2012-2013 season.

- I want to thank the Cougars volunteers, interns and off-ice officials for all of their hard work throughout the season as well. I'm so happy to have gotten a chance to get to know you all throughout the season. You all make coming to the rink a sincere joy, and I hope you all enjoy your summer. See you in the fall!

- To the crew at 99.3 The Drive for helping with the broadcasts this season. Allan Bristowe was awesome to work with, and I'm very proud of the work that we did together on the radio. From the very beginning, Allan has made me feel welcome in Prince George from the start, and I am grateful for all of his help this season. Once more a big thanks to Dave Ross and Patrick Kilcullen for all of their help behind the scenes to make the broadcasts what they were.

I'm almost done.

- I want to thank the many fans, billets, and parents who I got the chance to meet and visit with this season. Your words of encouragement meant an awful lot to a young broadcaster trying to make his mark on a new city with a new team. Thanks for going out of your way to introduce yourself and make me feel welcome.

- Lastly I want to thank the Cougars players. You guys were amazing to deal with. Thanks for helping me with interviews, videos, and player appearances. I've said it many times this season, and I'll say it once more: You guys are great players on the ice, and exceptional men off of it. I have every confidence in your collective ability in the ice, and I look forward to seeing what you guys are capable of in 2012-2013. Have a great summer boys, and keep in touch.

Thank you all for helping make my first season in the WHL an unforgettable experience. Here's to 2012-2013 and the many exciting memories and victories that await us.

- Dan O'Connor (The Voice of the Cougars)

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