I actually remember the very first sports blog post I ever read. It was Abel to Yzerman’s 2007-08 season preview. I was sitting on a couch in my apartment at Michigan State, excited for the start of the NHL season. I wanted to read something about the Red Wings, but I had grown bored reading the same mainstream stuff that I had been digesting for years. Being a hip college student, I knew that blogs were becoming all the rage, so I googled, “red wings blog”. A2Y was the first thing that popped up. I clicked on that season preview, and, from that moment on, I was completely hooked. I began to seek out as much online Red Wings content I could find, and that usually started and ended with Bill Houlihan’s musings at Abel to Yzerman.
I suppose I remember that moment in time so vividly because of the impact it would have on me, starting with that day in 2007 and leading up to right now. That whole first paragraph sounds made up, but I swear that it isn’t. One day I was a consumer of basic reading material -- like the newspaper, espn.com and all of your regular stuff – and the next I had become a loyal follower to this random dude who happened to be the first thing that popped up on a Google search. I remember where, when and why this all transpired. No, that doesn’t sound very realistic. But neither does talking to people all over the world through a strange typing machine who share the same passion for Red Wings hockey as I do. And I can trace pretty much all of that back to him.
Bill is known simply as “The Chief”. He’s an important guy, as his work in the U.S. Navy is certainly more important than whatever nonsense I’m doing on a daily basis. That lends itself to a pretty cool online pseudonym as well, one that resonates with all corners of the Wingosphere -- either positively or negatively. You either love or hate the Chief. Most people I know love him, but then again, just about every Wings fan friend I have is in some way because of him. There’s a bias there that Chief haters wouldn’t get and I wouldn’t expect them to get. When he was writing all the time, he would basically set fire to the Internet. He pushed people’s buttons. It was such an uncompromising style that it was often mistaken for a total gimmick, but that’s actually who he is. If you’ve ever had the chance to catch him on a podcast or even meet him in person, you know that’s who he is. In a world full of trolls, he’s maybe the only one who went for the outlandish because it’s actually what he thought, not because he gave a damn about your reaction.
The Chief’s influence is so great that I would not be a WIIM contributor if it weren’t for him. If you’re a newer member of this community or blogs in general, you may not even know who the Chief is. Due to his job requirements, he hasn’t been running A2Y with the same force he used to the last couple of years, and the posts had become more and more infrequent. That’s why I wanted to write this; not just for the people who know him and can relate to me, but also for the people who don’t.
After I first started reading A2Y six years ago, as well as the other sites that I would see linked there, I began to think it was something that I wanted to do too. I like writing, cracking jokes and watching hockey, so starting my own blog seemed like the natural progression. The Triple Deke was born in February of 2008 (the site, not the guy), and like most people that start a website, I had no idea what I was doing. The biggest obstacle to climb when starting a blog is ignoring the fact that practically nobody else is reading what you are writing, and that's something that most people don't get over. You begin to feel like you're writing in vain, and eventually you get bored and want to quit. After a few months of writing for basically myself, I emailed a few writers for tips. Only a couple people responded -- one of them being the Chief.
Not only was he kind enough to give a nobody like me some advice, but he also put up a post to link something I had written (I see all of the comments to the old posts have disappeared. You can just assume my site was met with universal acclaim and women emailed me naked pictures of themselves.) Deep down I think we all start a sports blog or seek out communities like this one because there aren't enough people in our everyday lives who can relate to how much we care about this stuff. Sure there are other reasons behind it, but the main thing is that you're searching for some kind of a connection that's missing from your real life sports-watching experience. And here was a guy with a huge platform displaying a piece I put a lot of effort into for a ton of people to see. Maybe it sounds lame, but it meant a lot to me. It was wild to see something I wrote linked to a site that actual, living people would read, considering the fact that I had maybe five visitors before this that didn't come across my site by accident. This little gesture made me so happy.
After that, I felt like less of a lurker and more of a member. A2Y commenters are known simply as "The 19" (because, in the Chief's words, there are 19 readers of A2Y .... no more, no less) and I eventually came to be a part of that clan. Those were the days, man. Before Twitter took hold of all our attention spans. Hockey blogs during the latter half of the 2000s were basically the wild west of the Internet. It was fun as hell. We had comment wars with Pensblog or STL Game Time or Puck Daddy or whoever we perceived to slight us that week. It was all in good fun, though. Sure we turned whatever Wyshynski or Lambert said into a life or death matter, but for real, it was more fun than anything. These days are far more mellow because of the Twitter age; you can pretty much hand pick who you want to interact with and who you want to ignore, if you choose to. But when the majority of the conversation was just between the blogs .... man, I miss that.
Nothing brought us together -- literally or figuratively -- like Herm to Hockeytown did. If you weren't around in 2010 to experience it, follow that link and read up on it. A Red Wings fan living in Brazil came to America to watch a game at Joe Louis thanks to the strange power of the Internet and the cool people in our neck of the woods. How insane is that? I still can't believe that it actually happened. A whole bunch of money was raised to make it reality, and the extra ended up being donated to the Childrens Hospital of Michigan. If you missed it Wednesday, J.J. had a great writeup reminding us why this now-annual tradition is so great. H2H and it's spirited sequel, H2H2, provided two of the most enjoyable weekends I have ever experienced, and the Chief was a major reason why it happened. Without A2Y's reach, there's probably no way H2H happens, and with that, I'm probably not buddies with many of you today. Simple as that.
I certainly wouldn't know J.J., a funny dude who happens to be the boss around these parts and a fellow card-carrying member of The 19. I'm the reason J.J. started writing in places other than comment sections of blogs. I mean, he's never told me that, but I definitely bugged him enough times about starting his own blog that I feel good enough about taking full credit for that. Without A2Y I wouldn't know my good pals Jeff and Graham, or any of the hundreds of cool people that it connected me with, including the great Herm himself. I'd start listing names of others but it would be too long, and you know who you are.
From my outlook, the Chief is essentially the root of this great tree that is my relationship with the online Red Wings community. All of the branches that extend off of it can be traced back to his influence and impact. He's not the only one who had a blog way back when, but he was definitely the most noticeable voice. I know because I was compelled by it immediately, a few seconds after a curious Google search identified A2Y as being the most relevant Red Wings blog out there.
So long and best of luck, Chief. I cannot thank you enough for all of your contributions over nearly a decade (wow you're old) of blogging. Things won't be the same without you.