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Back To Where We Started From

First and foremost, thank you to the many followers and readers who believed that a career switch up meant that I was poached by a major player and apologies to any hockey team or media outlet that was linked to me by said group of excited people. I suppose the fact that a few weeks between departure and re-arrival would lead to a mild hysteria is flattering, but I’m happy to get that over with now. Let’s talk about why we’re here.

The Decision

A few weeks ago, I stepped down from my role as Managing Editor of Hockey Content at The Nation Network, and my Site Editor role at The Leafs Nation that was associated with it. It was a very difficult decision; the network has been the platform for my development as a writer and personality for nearly half a decade, and I had a lot of co-workers that I consider close friends that I didn’t want to abandon professionally. Not to mention, income is income.

With that said, the fit just wasn’t there anymore for me.

The shift in the sports media landscape impacts more than just broadcasters and print; blog networks are running into the same concerns about monetization that their older siblings are. While new media isn’t in a state of flailing to avoid drowning, they do need to continue to find avenues to have a chance to grow, and as competition increases, things get more cut throat.

The Nation Network is doing what it can to make the strides necessary to succeed, and full credit to them for that. Over the past few years, I latched on to just about every opportunity I was made aware of from a content production perspective to help encourage that; covering teams outside my wheelhouse, taking on new roles, learning new skills, working long hours, contributing as an employee of multiple different time zones in parallel.

Let me tell you, 24 months of slapping together responsibilities, trying to over-exceed expectations, and filling in holes in content plans whenever there wasn’t anybody available to help (which, when you’re the only full-ish timer on a platform built on hobbyists, is often) burns you out. You don’t notice it day by day, but slowly but surely, it takes a toll on your physical and mental health.

The end of the season brought some adjustments to my role there, which led to some self-reflection. I realized that, in an effort to build up a professional future and make sure that ends continued to meet, I had alienated much of my social life, fallen out of shape, and spent most moments that weren’t filled with distraction feeling miserable, without a return that made it worth the aggravation.

While a dialling back of my role was an option, I knew that as long as the venue stayed the same, I wouldn’t have actually taken the necessary breaths, especially if I began to worry about whether I was providing necessary value. With that in mind, I stepped down entirely; a move you don’t really see in an industry where available jobs are shrinking, but ultimately, one I believed made the most sense for both sides. Trying to swim upstream in this climate is not easy, and I’m still rooting for the Nations to accomplish that for the sake of all of my friends there, and appreciate that they trusted me be a core part of the process over the years.

That brings us to… a minimalist blog?

I mean, it’s not like there’s a new job tree that people can grab fruit off of in the sports media industry right now, particularly for younger medium-stream writers like myself. More importantly, though, I think this is an opportunity to build something that creates the best possible me, on and off the rhetorical ice.

With this site, named after my first hockey blog made over a decade ago, I want to focus on writing about topics that I have genuine questions and opinions about. Less working off quotas and content plans, and a higher percentage of my time and brainpower devoted to giving you what’s of interest to me, and hopefully of you. Consider it personal curation; no more 70 article months where you can’t remember what 55 of them were about five minutes after reading them, but more chances to get actually something out your time.

Not to mention, that means more flexibility to get some sleep, go for walks, remind my friends and family that I’m not dead, and generally have the non-work life that I haven’t had for a while.

As far as topics go, the primary focus on the Leafs organization will remain but expect more work about the hockey world at large that I didn’t previously have a venue for. There may be some non-hockey talk tucked into a corner from time to time as well, so I’m not filling your Twitter timelines with 14-tweet rants about gadgets or soccer or sneakers or whatever’s bugging me. I also plan on doing what I can to hype up and promote other work that I like around the web; this is a tough industry to get a foothold in and I think anybody who is putting in a quality effort deserves at least a fighting chance.

Supporting Me / The Site

Naturally, for a blog like this to be my primary work focus, I’m going to need it to pick up some momentum and I’m going to need it to provide a somewhat steady income. The latter will be especially challenging to start, but I’ve prepared myself for that. If you’d like to see this succeed though, here’s how you can help.

  • Make sure you follow the site on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, tell your friends about it, and share everything you enjoy. Establishing a foothold in 2017 is difficult, especially if you want to avoid being formulaic, so I’ll need some of your help there. You can also my personal account on Twitter if you don’t already, but be warned that it’ll be a bit more hectic.
  • Subscribe to the ‘Premium’ part of the site. Most of my work will remain free. Higher-effort projects and weekend posts, however, will be subscription-based. There are other site feature incentives as well, that are all outlined on the subscription page.
  • If a subscription isn’t up your alley or you’re feeling extra generous, there’s a one-time donation page you can check out.
  • Keep buying merch. Yes, the “Actually Good” mugs nearly started a hockey twitter civil war while the Leafs were playing through last season, but they were also popular with others and led to more successful designs. I mostly make these designs for fun so the margins aren’t as big as most online shirt sellers, but it’s still extra income. I’ll keep doing occasional charity runs as well, since we’ve raised some good money for some important causes over the past few months by doing so.
  • Become a sponsor. This is in its infancy since we don’t know what traffic or demographics look like yet, but if you’re as optimistic about the project as I am, it’s a good time to get on the ground floor.
  • There’s a single sidebar ad for non-subscribers. It should be non-intrusive, so if you’re not supporting the site in any other way, a disabling of your ad blocker would be sweet.
  • I’m more than happy to take on some outside freelance work too. This doesn’t have to be my only venue. If you enjoy my work and think I can add to your platform on a one off or semi-occasional basis, don’t hesitate to contact me.

 

What Now?

At this point, I’m sure most of you are wondering when hockey articles are going to start showing up here again. The answer to that question is this comingĀ Monday. That’s not to build anticipation or anything; I simply have plans for parts of this weekend and want to spend the available work time for the next few days focusing on filling out the shell of the site, fixing bugs, and getting the social pages up to snuff. Of course, if big news happens in Toronto from now until then, all bets are off. I won’t leave you hanging.

Thanks for reading this wall of text, and hopefully this won’t be your last visit!

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