Still the Same, Still in the Game
Reunited and it feels so good.
For the better part of two decades I’ve been fortunate enough to work alongside Bernie Puchalski at The Standard chronically anything and everything in the world of local sports in Niagara.
High school athletics, university sports, baseball, junior B hockey, OHL hockey, rowing, soccer, lacrosse — you name it, and we were there telling the story.
That meant a lot of late nights away from home in arenas and gyms chasing local athletes and their stories, but that was part of the job. We were doing what we loved and giving those who deserved it the proper recognition.
Granted, there were times when it felt like we were climbing a mountain with little possibility of ever reaching the top, but we were committed to doing the job.
All that came to an end earlier this year when we both took voluntary buyouts from The Standard. It was time for a change and, truth be told, time to get off the wheel, take a step back, and catch our collective breath.
For the first couple of months the time off was great. After 32 years of non-stop work — often at a hectic pace — the down time was needed and certainly welcome.
Getting paid to take a break is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but a strange thing happened on the way to what some would call heaven.
Suddenly, without a game to cover or feature story on a local athlete to write about, I started to feel, well, unimportant.
Part of it was ego, to be sure. Right or wrong, you don’t do a job for over three decades and not have it become part of your identity.
When I went to an event, I felt like I was not only doing a job, but also providing an important service to our readers. It meant something to the community that they could count on me to provide them with not just the score, but insights and opinions on their favourite teams and athletes.
It mattered to the community that the young, budding star who was off to an NCAA Division 1 school on a scholarship was having his or her story told and I was only to proud to be the one to do it.
When I announced I was leaving and received an overwhelming amount of support from both our readers, co-workers and the sporting organizations themselves, I realized all the hard work and nights away from home were worth every minute.
The calls, text messages, e-mails and pats on the back were so plentiful it was hard to fathom. It really was overwhelming.
But of all the well wishes, I will never forget what took place following my last official assignment.
Fittingly enough, it was a St. Catharines Falcons junior B game and after the game Falcons assistant coach Rick Girhiny, as good a guy as there is both on and off the ice, invited me into the dressing room where he said a few kind words and told the team I was leaving The Standard. Falcons captain Justin Felker then presented me with the game puck as the team stood and cheered. It took everything for me to hold back the tears.
I composed myself, made my way back to the office, filed my story, and that was it.
Except it wasn’t.
Following a few last-minute goodbyes in the newsroom I walked to my car, closed the door and a flood of mixed emotions — mostly good — came pouring out of me as my career at the paper came to an end in a dark, empty parking lot on a cold winter night.
At that point, as burnt out as I was, I knew someway, somehow, I had to get back in the game.
Fortunately, Bernie felt the same way and we quickly put together a plan to continue to provide coverage to deserving athletes and teams in Niagara and BSPN Sports was born.
We’re back. A few months older, but rested and refreshed and committed to bringing our readers the best local sports coverage available.
Hang on and climb aboard. It promises to be another fantastic ride.