Happy Thanksgiving Checkers fans! I don’t think you can ever be too thankful at this time of year, so here is my list and the second-annual Chasing Checkers Thanksgiving post. By no means is this a complete list… just a few of the things off the top of my head I’m thankful for this year.
Lord Stanley of Preston – Who in 1888, attended his first hockey game, and a few years later in 1892, purchased a decorative bowl to be used as a trophy since none existed to recognize the best team. 120 years later, his decorative bowl is still used to reward the greatest team in hockey each year.
Los Angeles Kings – For being the team in the city of my birth to win Lord Stanley’s most recent prize, the 2012 NHL championship. I just hate I haven’t been able to see them defend the title (yet) this season.
Kirk Muller – Almost a year ago, the Hurricanes made an incredible decision when they hired Coach Muller, luring him away from the Checker’s Midwest division rivals, the Milwaukee Admirals. His style behind the bench quickly began to change the way hockey was played in Raleigh, and during this offseason and training camp, his systems were adopted by the Checkers. Each time I’ve seen the team play this year, I’ve become more impressed with their ferocity, and so much of this is because of Muller.
Baltimore Clippers – It may be inappropriate, but I’m really glad their rink burned down in 1956. That fire led to the team moving to Charlotte, and later becoming the Checkers, a name that has stuck for many, many successful decades of ice hockey in North Carolina.
Justin – How can I think of a Checkers Thanksgiving and not be grateful for Justin? Four players share this name, and each of them adds an important ingredient to the winning recipe we’ve seen on the ice this year.
Jacques Plante – He had an over 20-year career as a professional goaltender, and is the first one to have worn a mask regularly during that time, and really revolutionized the way the position was played. But mostly, I’m glad that he started wearing a mask, so that modern-day goaltenders don’t end up bloodied, battered and bruised as he did during his career.
The PHPA’s CBA – I’m grateful that the American Hockey League’s season hasn’t lost any games to a lockout. Hockey is alive and well in Charlotte, and I’m looking forward to the rest of 2012-13 continuing in the winning ways it began in.
Jason Shaya – Between the awesome play by play stylings of Mr. Shaya, and the new partnership the Checkers have with ESPN730 and TuneIn radio, I can hear every game from anywhere I am. I firmly believe that Jason is one of the best in the business (even though one time, he interviewed me live on the air which might make some feel he has questionable judgment, I thought it was fun!)
My 2002 Honda Accord – With nearly 200K miles on the odometer, it faithfully drove me to the Midwest division and back twice last season for a total of 3700 miles, enabling me to see great friends along the way, taste delicious beer with fellow hockey fans, and stayed the course even when winter ice storms shut down the interstate in Kentucky.
The Checkers Front Office – What an amazing group of individuals who together create their own awesome team! From my spectacular ticket rep, to the kechup chip loving public relations gurus and everyone else I have had the privilege of getting to know, the Checkers has a winning team on the ice and behind-the-scenes.
The Charlotte Checkers Charitable Foundation – I’m sure I’m biased, but is there a better team out there than the Checkers when it comes to giving back to the community? From the 15 Days of Giving campaigns that have started each of the past two seasons, to giving an area teenager a much-needed wheelchair accessible van, and helping an entire family relocate to Charlotte by buying them a house, the Checkers are amazing when it comes to sharing the gifts they have been blessed with.
My fellow AHL bloggers – This list seems to have doubled since last year, which is pretty awesome! I’m thankful for the on and off-ice friendships I’ve made with people like Ryan in Milwaukee and Zack in Peoria who both share my love of craft beer. For Jason in Wilkes-Barre and Andrew in Houston who each continue to inspire me professionally, and many more I’m just getting to know in places like Oklahoma City, San Antonio and Austin.
Checkers Fans - Last but certainly not least, we are a pretty great bunch, eh? I’ve met so many great Checkers fans over the years, and if it wasn’t for all of you, I wouldn’t be here writing about a team that I’m so passionate about. I’m thankful for those who were before me, and those I’ve brought along on this wonderful ride. Let’s Go Checkers!