Thankful Moments

jagrI wasn’t going to share any hockey content on this site or talk about hockey, because this was supposed to be more about my spiritual journal (which sometimes talks about life as a hockey writer). All of the other stuff is compartmentalized according to its content on various sites.

I’m making an exception this time to share what I’ve been working on.

I’m doing a special series this season with the New Jersey Devils for Throwback Thursday.  I’ve been collecting stories since August from Devils alumni and current players on their lives (growing up hockey) and the moments that were special to them as a Devil.

We started off with Mike Peluso.  You know, that enforcer that started sobbing on the bench right before the Devils won the Cup in 1995.

I followed that up with Patrik Elias sharing his favorite moment of his career so far.

Next, I began a two part series with Ken Daneyko.  Part 1, Part 2.

Next week, Brodeur shares one of his favorite moments.  The following weeks for November will feature Stephen Gionta and Adam Henrique.

Coinciding with the Devils Throwback Thursday features is another TBT series we just launched…Jaromir Jagr’s.  This is his final NHL season.  He’ll be sharing his life and favorite moments as he counts down the final days of his NHL career.  Each week (every Thursday) we’ll feature a new story at Inside Hockey of Jagr’s wisdom and his life thus far…in his own words.

This week we released the first in his series.

I wasn’t originally going to insert myself into the column.  It was just going to be Jagr’s story. But as I was transcribing, I noticed there was some banter that was worth sharing.  There was even one point where he referenced something we had discussed prior to the interview that I needed to share to explain why he was making a certain point.

As I kept writing I realized…the banter that occurs during the interview is worth sharing because it makes the story a little more humorous.  By sharing the banter, it actually makes Jagr’s series a little more interesting.

For those who know me or follow me, they all are aware of Jagr’s strong influence on my hockey life.  He was the reason why I even got into hockey to begin with.  Watching a hockey god in all his greatness…that’s what made me fall in love with the game…and he knows it.  So why not have one of his greatest fans (who happens to be a hockey writer) work with him to recount his life and career thus far during his final year as a NHL player?

He said the most important thing was that this series be good.  After all, this is his series.  He’s telling his story in his own words and sharing a little bit of his own wisdom.  That wisdom part wasn’t originally going to go into the piece because it wasn’t part of the interview.  He just started spouting these words and then I asked him if he was telling me this or saying it in general…something tells me he was saying this to me for a reason.  He claims God told him to say it.  That part I do believe because it was random and to the point.  I don’t think he even knew why he was saying it, but it struck close to home when he said it.

I decided to include it in the piece.  Each time before publication that I re-read those words I thought…that’s what we’re going to do.  We’re going to let him share some of his wisdom at the start of the piece before he shares his story.  It will allow fans to see more of his spiritual side…the side not too many media types care for or ask about.  But for those who are fans of Jagr (and he has a whole world of them), it’s important because it will help you in your own struggles in life.  It’s his way of helping whoever comes across these words of wisdom.  It has a deeper meaning when it comes from someone you admire and respect.

Oh, and trust me…Jagr has been spouting his spiritual words of wisdom to me ever since we started talking.  I go home, write down what he said and put it up on my inspiration board.  That’s how meaningful it is to me and I think, for his fans, it will be just as meaningful for them.

As for actual Devils coverage this season, I’ll have a weekly column at Inside Hockey that rounds up the Devils in a nutshell along with any short interviews I’ve done with the players.  I also have some help this season, so Jashvina Shah will be helping me cover a few games every month.

For Rangers coverage, I’ll be there a few times a month.  Those stories will be mainly game coverage pieces.

I hope you guys enjoy the two series.  I decided to do this because I’ve been looking at what made my career so great before I retired.  It had a lot to do with the human pieces…the special interviews with the players.  Those are the stories you remember.  I still remember David Clarkson and John Madden’s stories I wrote.  Those were the stories that warmed my heart.  The stories that inspired me were always the human stories.  I even carry around Brendan Shanahan’s story from when he first won the Stanley Cup.  What sticks out to me is the story of how he took the Cup to his father’s grave and started weeping.

Those were the stories I loved reading.  Those were the stories that inspired me to write.  When I started to reflect on how I wanted to approach my work coming back to hockey, I wanted to continue writing those human stories.  That’s why I decided to do a Throwback Thursday feature with the Devils.  Now, I’ve added Jagr to that features list.

I’m lucky that Jagr agreed to do this.  I know he has his Czech blog.  He’s never agreed to do something like this here though.  So I’m very lucky and so is Inside Hockey.  That’s the platform where he’ll be sharing his stories.

And you know what?  As one of Jagr’s biggest fans, I’m lucky I get to spend his final season going down memory lane with him.  It’s humbling.  After all those years sitting behind him on the bench, traveling to see him play, throwing up because he chose to wear orange, apparently it meant something in the end in the whole universe’s way of doing things.  This is like God letting me say goodbye to Jagr’s NHL career by letting me write about it.

And for that I’m thankful. November is a time to be thankful…that’s why Thanksgiving is in November.  These moments I’ve had over these last few weeks are worth being thankful for.

Jagr asked me after I came back from surgery if I thanked God for letting me live.  He had that stern look on his face like he was going to chastise me if I hadn’t.

Of course I had.  It was the first thing I did when I came out of anesthesia…and I never stopped thanking him.

[NOTE: The photo above of Jagr…I normally take pictures of him sitting on the bench like this for a reason…when I first got into hockey, Jagr was always sitting in front of me on the bench just like this.  It reminds me of why and how I fell in love with the game.  He was a huge part of the reason why hockey became such a big part of my life.]

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