What this is the place for, however, is for expressing a moment of gratitude to one of the casualties of the Daily News closing. Kamloops Daily News sports editor Gregg Drinnan is without question the dean of WHL reporters. If you want to know what's really going on around the league, he's the guy who's in the know. His blog, Taking Note (link at left), has been a daily essential for those who follow the league.
Gregg was the first true WHLer I met after being hired to cover the WHL. I was hired in September of 2003 specifically to cover this new hockey team in Everett. I wasn't hired because of my hockey knowledge -- I'd been to one live hockey game in my life before getting the job. I was hired because I'd worked for my boss, Herald sports editor Kevin Brown, previously at the Skagit Valley Herald. Kevin didn't know he was going to be able to add to the staff until the last minute. Therefore, I'm not sure I was chosen so much because of my ability as a reporter or writer, but rather because of my proximity, which allowed me to get on the beat in time for the start of the season.
The first week of my second stint with the Herald (I worked as a part-timer answering the phones and covering prep games from 1995-98) was spent trying not to embarrass myself in print. I had a basic understanding of hockey, but I was certainly no expert in the nuances, and I didn't know a thing about the league. That first week I bluffed my way through stories leading into the first game in franchise history, which happened to be in Kamloops against the Blazers.
I was dispatched to Kamloops to record the moment. If I wasn't already nervous enough -- my stomach was churning throughout the week -- my anxiety kicked up several notches when my car's check-engine light went off the day before I had to make the five-hour drive up north. So when I got to Kamloops for the game, I was pretty much a wreck.
I'd already interviewed Everett's head coach Kevin Constantine, as well as several of Everett's players. But both Constantine and general manager Doug Soetaert were newcomers to the WHL themselves. Gregg was the first individual I encountered with any history with the league.
I remember meeting him in the press box, and I remember how helpful he was getting a rookie reporter up to speed. But what I remember most is that he treated me in a way that made me feel like an equal. He considered me a colleague, he did not condescend down to this punk kid who had no clue what was going on. That experience in Kamloops helped me feel a little more welcome in a world where I was an outsider.
I don't know what's in store for Gregg with the Daily News now closed. I don't know what his plans are with his blog. It's possible we, as followers of the WHL, have lost this resource for good.
But regardless of the fate of Gregg Drinnan the reporter, I just want to say "thank you" to Gregg Drinnan the man for helping ease my transition into the league. Good luck to you, your wife and your family going forward. I wish you nothing but the best.
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