Growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, late-night television fascinated me. Having a fairly strict bedtime of 11:30 p.m. on school nights, the rare occasions I could watch Johnny Carson, David Letterman or Conan O'Brien were pretty special to me.
There was all this great stuff on TV after the local news? And it's on every night?
The fact that these shows were on five days a week is what I really connected with. These shows were there every weeknight even if they were occasionally reruns. That reliability was something I marveled at.
When Carson died in 2005, Letterman eulogized him by comparing him to being something akin to a "public utility."
Two years later, when given the opportunity to start my own hockey blog, I decided to treat it like a talk show in that I wanted it to have something every day of the week.
Like a public utility.
Regardless if a reader thought I was spot on, nuts, ignorant, idiotic, etc., the one thing I wanted to always be was reliable in ensuring Empty Netters was updated ever single day of the year - even in August when I took vacation.
For the last 3,456 days, I've tried to earn your trust by ensuring this little corner of the Internet had something new and fresh to read.
Sadly, there won't be a 3,457th day.
Empty Netters has been discontinued.
When this blog began Feb. 14, 2007, I had absolutely no idea what would happen over the next nine and a half years. All I knew was that I had a chance to write some words about a sport I as passionate about with a byline.
It ended up being something which changed my life and provided me with so much on a personal and professional level.
I still have to pinch myself in order to realize I've been able to cover three Stanley Cup Finals, three outdoor games and vote on major NHL awards.
Writing this blog and covering hockey has been a dream job.
I've always been a big believer in that no matter what success you've enjoyed in any endeavor, you've likely had help along the way. I'm certainly no exception.
(Note: If I've forgotten a name, don't take it personally and blame it on a feeble memory.)
First and foremost, I've had a very supportive family. My mom, Mary, reads every day even if she didn't know how many periods there are in a hockey game. My dad, Jim, read every day before his eyesight went on him. And my brother, Kyle, always offered a kind word for what I wrote.
Friends put up with me skipping countless weddings, birthday parties or other gatherings in order to cover mostly meaningless games against the Lightning and Hurricanes. My former roommate Derek Kassimer allowed me to commandeer his laptop for several months in the early days of the blog.
Several co-workers helped this become a reality. Dan Gigler pushed for me to do a hockey blog and helped come up with so many of the base elements of Empty Netters, including the name.
Editors Donna Eyring, Mary Leonard and Jerry Micco gave the green light to this blog and displayed a lot of patience with me on several occasions when I probably didn't deserve it. Others who helped in various ways include Shelly Anderson, Gener Collier, Peter Diana, Tim Dunham, Michael Elek, Jody Farr, Ray Fittipaldo, Matt Kennedy, Kim Lyons, Jenn Menendez, Linda Parker, Carl Remensky, Mila Sanina and Pete Zapadka.
Few people have meant more to me on a personal and professional level than Dave Molinari. He is a far better human than he is writer ... and he's literally a hall-of-fame writer. He has taught me so much ranging from how to describe a play on the ice to how to conduct an interview on the phone to just how to treat people. I couldn't possibly repay him if I had 100 lifetimes to do so.
One thing I will desperately miss in writing this blog is the camaraderie I have with other writers, bloggers and media types who cover hockey. Ian Altebaugh, Natasha Andjelkovic, Christian Arnold, Arpon Basu, Amalie Benjamin, Jonathan Bernier, Per Bjurman, Scott Burnside, Adam Caldwell, Katie Carrera, Dmitry Chesnokov, Mike Colligan, Vince Comunale, Josh Cooper, Nick Cotsonika, Wes Crosby, Lisa Dillman, Mike "Doc" Emrick, Erik Erlendsson, Helene Elliott, Harvey Fialkov, Sean Fitz-Gerald, Elliotte Friedman, Will Graves, Sean Gentile, Dennis Gorman, Andrew Gross, Adam Gretz, Tom Gulitti, Darren Haynes, Bill Hoppe, Eric Hornik, Chris Johnston, Matt Kalman, Isabelle Khurshudyan, Kirill Kisselev, Terry Koshan, Paul Kukla, Kevin Kurz, Seth Lakso, Mark Lazerus, Sean Leahy, Pierre LeBrun, Guillaume Lefrançois, Pat Leonard, Corey Masisak, Jesse Marshall, Joe McDonald, Sarah McLellan, Shawn Mitchell, James Mirtle, Craig Morgan, Kristen Odland, Murray Pam, Aaron Portzline, Dan Potash, Alex Prewitt, George Richards, Derek Rocco, Dan Rosen, Jon Rosen, Michael Russo, Jeremy Rutherford, Frank Saravalli, Dan Scifo, Arthur Staple, Tom Vanesky, Stephen Whyno, Greg Wyshynski, Joe Yerdon, Mike Zeisberger are people I have had the fortune of become familiar with and I am a better person for it. Other writers with competing media outlets which I am not permitted to mention in this forum are also among others I consider close professional friends.
I've also been fortunate to do a little radio and television despite having a face and voice meant for print. Chris Mack was the very first person brave enough to have me on the air back with the defunct ESPN 1250. Bob Pompeani and Mike Vukovcan have been brave enough to put me on television. Others who have been generous in allowing me on the radio include Randy Bauman, Jim Colony, Adam Crowley, Tab Douglas, Colin Dunlap, Jeff Hathorn, Joe Lodanosky, Mark Madden, Chris Mueller, Mike Prisuta, Michael Remis, Stan Savran, Mike Steele, David Todd, George Von Benko, John Walton and Paul Zeise.
Specifically covering the Penguins, several team and arena employees have been key in any success I've enjoyed. Those people include Wayne "Gretzky" Anderson, Jennifer Bullano-Ridgely, Frank Buomo, Brian Coe, Mike Davenport, Chris DeVivo, Pat Dougherty, Bob Errey, Bob Grove, Erik Heasley, Thomas Grimm, Dana Heinze, Vinny Karpuszka, Sam Kasan, Steve Kolbe, Tom McMillan, Ryan Mill, Steve Mears, Mike O'Brien, Katie O'Malley, Tim Priano, Teddy Richards, Joe Sager, Jason Seidling, Paul Steigerwald, Ray Walker and Bill Wareham.
Two members of the Penguins I'd like to point out are radio broadcasters Mike Lange and Phil Bourque. For someone who has been working in either radio or television covering the Penguins, the level of detail Mike puts into his craft is something to behold. He treats every game with the same level of importance. Phil, his partner, goes the extra mile in finding all kind of little extra bits of information from either team after morning skates. Mike and Phil aren't excellent broadcasters by accident. They put an extraordinary amount of effort into their vocation.
Several players and management such as Craig Adams, Mike Bales, Andy Bathgate, Beau Bennett, Paul Bissonnette, Nick Bonino, Robert Bortuzzo, Jason Botterill, Dan Bylsma, Sidney Crosby, Taylor Chorney, Adam Clendening, Ian Cole, Blake Comeau, Matt Cullen, Brian Dumoulin, Pascal Dupuis, Deryk Engelland, Bobby Farnham, Eric Fehr, Tom Fitzgerald, Marc-Andre Fleury, Tanner Glass, Tony Granato, Alex Goligoski, Sergei Gonchar, Bill Guerin, Dustin Jeffrey, Brent Johnson, Mike Johnston, Jussi Jokinen, Rob Klinkhammer, Chuck Kobasew, Tom Kuhnhackl, Chris Kunitz, Mark Letestu, Ben Lovejoy, Olli Maatta, Jayson Megna, Brenden Morrow, Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik, David Perron, Taylor Pyatt, Todd Reirden, Jack Riley, Mike Rupp, Bryan Rust, Jim Rutherford, Justin Schultz, Rob Scuderi, Conor Sheary, Ray Shero, Zach Sill, Nick Spaling, Brandon Sutter, Lee Stempniak, Dominik Uher, (the great) Joe Vitale, Tomas Vokoun, Scott Wilson and Jeff Zatkoff have also each played a role in making this job enjoyable.
Above all else, its readers who should get the most credit for what Empty Netters was. You were the ultimate justification for so many of the things I was able to do. The fact that so many people - without prompting - will point out a Jersey Foul or that the Staals are brothers or #FireRayShero or any of the other silly little memes which have come to life through Empty Netters .... it's staggering.
Readers who have been big supporters over the years include Mike Anitori, Brooks Batten, Rachael and Wendy Bishop, Mike Bober, Maria Boggia, Lisa Bohm, Geoffrey Chin, Cy and Joanne Clark, Craig Cross, Brenna and Joe Dykta, Uli Englhart, Chris Esposito, John Falcone, Joy Fredrick, Caitlin Harkenrider, Melinda Harty, Zoe Hayden, Gene Hlavac, Howard Herman, Lauren Hopkins, Michael Ryan Janicki, Justin Kelly, Elizabeth Krenzelok, Bernardo Mainou, Eric Majeski, Bill Maloni, Steve Mazefsky, T.J. McAloon, Ron Michalek, Lowell Murray, Eric Naughton, Luiz Mello, Bob and Jarrett Rathke, Ed Rohm, Mike Salvio, Brian Schaich, Judd Stricker, Joe Tabor, Rob Ullman, Adam, Ann and Sue Vrabel, Lisa Weir and Kelli Zappas. Other readers who I primarily know through Twitter include bastage42, Sieve70 and redbuppy who has been invaluable when it comes to volunteer copy editing.
In nine years, I've been able to develop relationships with so many people. That has been the greatest reward in what has been a dream job. Those relationships motivated me to ensure there was something here for you to read every day.
To all of you who have read, enjoyed or even disagreed with anything I have offered, you have given me far more than I'll ever give you.