The post about being thankful – a Charlotte Checkers edition

It’s American Thanksgiving (our Canadian brethren celebrated last month), and while only three of the players are from the U.S., can you ever be TOO thankful?  I don’t think so!  So here is the first-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.

Michael Kahn – I’m so thankful that he took a risk on bringing the AHL to Charlotte.  While Charlotte was a successful market for AA Hockey, it never saw something as top-tier as the AHL, and it’s been in my opinion, a huge success.  I’m grateful of what an incredible team Mr. Kahn has built here, and how much he gives back to the community.

McGill University of Montreal – The school where hockey rules were said to have been formalized in 1875.  Where would we be without those students who helped formalize such a fantastic sport?

Mike Murphy – this is a guy, who at only 22 years old, is one of the most stand-out individuals I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing.  From the ways he volunteers in the community, to his demeanor and personality when he interacts with the fans, he’s a classy individual, and one I’m so proud of to have as a member of the Checkers.  Oh, and did I mention he’s a total rock star of a goaltender?  Because he is!

Justin – I’m just thankful there are so many Justin’s to pick from.  They all add so much to the team.  From puck stopping, to scoring,  to incredible mustaches, to fisticuffs, the Justin’s make every Checkers game better.

Chris – If I’m going to be thankful for Justin, I’ve got to be grateful for Chris, too!  Because without Chris, we wouldn’t have Terryiffic, Murray’s fantastic handlebar mustache or our alternate captain who grows on me more and more every game he plays in Charlotte.

The Zac(h)s – I’m thankful that the Hurricanes organization is determined to make sure that these two guys put lots of miles on their cars between Raleigh and Charlotte.  I wonder if they ever stop at the Sheetz in Mebane?  That place makes a pretty great quesadilla, and has cheap gas, too (no comment on whether the quesadilla gives you gas…)

The Checkers front office – I’ve had the privilege of getting to know a lot of the guys in the office, from public relations to ticket sales to (now former) interns, etc., and they are all great people who are dedicated, fun and personable.  Plus, with Movember going on, a lot of them have REALLY sweet ‘staches.

French Canadians – I’ve always said, the key to a good hockey team having at least one guy from Quebec.  Well, the Checkers have five, and I’m pretty sure they are five times as awesome as the average hockey team.  Coincidence?  I think not.  So thank you Quebec for Nicolas Blanchard, Jerome Samson, Cedric McNicoll, Mathieu Roy and Matt Pistilli, (and forinventing hockey, and POUTINE because what’s not to love about a plate full of french fries, cheese curds and brown gravy?)

The Canadian Rockies – Ever since I visited there a year ago, I’ve dreamed of returning, and am planing a post-graduation trib back to Alberta.  It’s my favorite Canadian province, and home of my favorite NHL team, so obviously, I’m thankful for Riley Nash since he’s from there, too!

Sutter and Staal families, and Jim Rutherford’s desire to collect them – Two of the greatest hockey families of the modern era, and we have one from each of them in Charlotte.  Thank you for good hockey genes, and hockey brothers (and cousins) that continue to make a huge mark in professional hockey.  So thank you to Jared Staal and Brett Sutter… it’s pretty awesome to have each of you in Charlotte (though Brett?  We miss you buddy! Have a good turkey day in Raleigh!)

Jason Shaya – I’m thankful Charlotte has such a GREAT play by play guy.  The more I listen to his play by play, the more I realize we are really lucky to have someone who is so experienced, and calls such a descriptive game for those of us who can’t be at there in person.

Ontario – The province that gives us nearly half of the Checkers team (10+ guys!)  So thank you for Sod farms, Staal brothers, and one/half of my favorite defensive pairing, Mr. Brett Bellemore.

Canada, Czech Republic, Germany and Finland – the birthplaces of the other Checkers who I hope will have the chance to enjoy “our” Thanksgiving.
  • Canada is home to some of the most amazing scenery I’ve ever seen (if you don’t believe me, google Moraine Lake), amazing people, and some of my favorite bands, (especially Great Big Sea) and REALLY GOOD BEER.
  • The Czech Republic is quite magical… I’ve only been to Prague, but it was fantastic. The train ride through the mountains to get there was quite breathtaking, plus, great things like Michal Jordan and Pilsner (though not my favorite beer style) come from the Czech Republic.
  • Germany is another favorite of mine… great art, music and defensemen are natives of Germany.  Plus, there is awesome weissbier, Oktoberfest and Birkenstocks.  And who can forget lederhosen?  I’ve been to Germany twice, and each time was amazed at a land of castles, the alps, and incredible people. Thank you, Germany, for giving us Justin Krueger.
  • Finland – OK, I’ve never been here, but I know they have a lot of Lutherans and Saunas, both of which are a lot of fun. (Yes, Lutherans are fun!  My dad and brother are both Lutheran pastors, and I think they are awesome!)  And Rasmus Rissanen is Finnish, so it’s got to be a great place!

AHL Bloggers – I’m so thankful to Jason at Chirps from Center Ice and Ryan at The Admirals Roundtable and others for giving me advice, and mentoring me as I walk this rocky, brand-new world of sports writing.  I’ve learned a lot, and really enjoyed getting to know them since this crazy Chasing Checkers thing got started.  Unfortunately, the AHL doesn’t get nearly enough coverage by traditional media, and I firmly believe these blogs are important to fill in the gaps.  Keep up the great work to everyone out there doing this for “fun”!

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!

Happy Thanksgiving, Checkers friends, fans and family.  I hope all of you have a great day with those you care for.  Go Checkers!

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