Goodbye Letter: I Won’t Be Returning To Cover Princeton Hockey

I’m crying as I type this because it’s the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make.

After three years, I won’t be returning to cover Princeton hockey.

Since the summer of 2013, the beat has been my life. I’ve surrendered my days, nights weekends and more. But I’ve known for a while this isn’t sustainable, and I’ve been living the past two years on borrowed time.

I’ve given everything I had to this and now I have nothing left to give. This year with teaching, covering Big Ten hockey and the CWHL, I had very little time to dedicate to the blog. So as hard as it is, I know it’s the right moment to move on.

Princeton defenseman Joe Grabwoski hands Ron Fogarty the game puck

Princeton defenseman Joe Grabwoski hands Ron Fogarty the game puck

I’m really going to miss reporting. During my senior year of college, a professor asked us why we wanted to beat report, and I said it’s because I love being an expert on something. And I do. I love reporting, breaking stories, pressing for interviews, being around the team as much as possible and putting it all together to give people the best insight into the team. I love watching players grow and building relationships, witnessing it all change. Because it does change a lot. And over the last three years, I’ve changed a lot.

But this is difficult because I’m not only saying goodbye to beat reporting – a staple since freshman year of college – but I’m also saying farewell to the community and to my home for the last three years, the one that welcomed me as a scared post-grad dealing with life’s instability. I watched my life capsize several times over the past few years, but this community helped me swim below the waves until I was ready to resurface.

I started the blog in the summer of 2013 as a graduate who, for the first time in four years, didn’t have a beat anymore. With just summer RA duties in a sweltering Warren Towers, I needed something to do. I missed school. I missed reporting.

I had intermittently covered Princeton through my senior year and knew the team received little coverage. I wanted to improve my journalism skills and the team needed a reporter, so I created the blog.

It started that summer populated by a few Q&A’s with the incoming freshmen – Colton Phinney, Quin Pompi, Ryan Siiro, Garrett Skrbich, Ben Foster, Marlon Sabo and Tommy Davis. I later returned home jobless, so covering this team became my job.

I remember my first week on the beat. The fall chill hadn’t permeated the thin walls of Baker yet, leading to nice walks from the small parking garage up the to the rink. But it was tumultuous. The Tigers welcomed Ryerson and brushed aside the Rams in two exhibition games, complete with an Andrew Calof hat trick. But I still came home after the first game and cried. I missed BU hockey so much. I felt so alone.

I knew I had two choices – I could run back to Boston, where it was safe and familiar, or I could believe in myself and push forward. I knew staying at Princeton was the right thing to do.

It’s funny because that was almost three years ago when I cried at the thought of staying. And here I am now, heartbroken at the thought of leaving.

Fans pelt the ice with tennis balls after Dartmouth's first goal

Fans pelt the ice with tennis balls after Dartmouth’s first goal

I’ve been so fortunate to continue beat reporting for the past three years. It’s been hard, certainly. I’ve given everything I could to this beat – late nights of transcribing, writing, photo editing, traveling and a lot of money. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I wouldn’t give up the weekends spent shivering in the rink, or the bus rides, train travels and road trips to Harvard, Colgate, Yale, Brown, Dartmouth and Penn State. I wouldn’t give up fighting three canceled flights just to get home from Wisconsin for a Tuesday game. I wouldn’t give up staying awake until 3 a.m. to write and edit photos.

I wouldn’t trade being there for Ryan Benitez’s first collegiate appearance. Or Ron Fogarty’s first Division I win. Or the women earning their Ivy League trophy. Or watching a live stream, counting every save, when Colton Phinney broke the program’s single-season record. Or spending over 20 hours at Baker for my last Princeton game coverage, split between three women’s playoff games and the men’s last regular season contests.

I’ve been so lucky not only to see some amazing places and moments but also to meet such amazing people. The SIDs, fans, families, coaches and players have all been so great. They’ve made this so much easier than it could’ve been.

When I first started covering Princeton, I knew nothing about the team. I’d walked into Devils development camp in 2012 to interview Jack Berger and Mike Ambrosia, and back then I didn’t even know that Jack was the captain. I knew little about the team and community, despite growing up at its doorstep.

Four years later, I watched Mike become a co-captain. And I saw Jack’s younger brother, Chase, play for Penn State. I’ve gotten to cover the women’s team and meet the makers of that program’s success. Four years later, the people I knew so little about have become my family.

With college hockey, we’re lucky we see athletes come in as freshmen and grow as players and as people. It’s crazy that the players who jumpstarted my blog will graduate next year. And it’s crazy that the first player who responded to my Q&A request, the first real content on the site, was Ryan Siiro.

He’s the team captain now.

When I first spoke to Ryan and the other players, I wasn’t sure I could cover this team and be so far away from BU. But I’m so glad I stayed, because the past three years of my life have been incredible. The road trips, the crazy games, the memorable moments and the countless stories will always have a special place in my heart. (I still tell people about the night an errant puck ripped into the press box and tore down the Ivy League banner, or when a puck cut Kyle Rankin through his cage and there was a trail of blood on the ice.)

I want to thank the Princeton hockey families for their endless support with the blog and aiding with travel. But I really want to thank them for their encouragement, kind words and for always believing in me.

I want to thank the players for letting me into their home, for handling all my requests and always making themselves available for interviews. I’ve covered some good people here. These people made it easy for me to come to the rink every weekend and they made it a safe space away from the tests of being a woman sports journalist.

Ambrosia and KesselmanI would really like to thank the captains – my go-to interviews – from Jack Berger in 2014 to Mike Ambrosia and Kyle Rankin this year. Not only did they give great quotes, even after tough losses, but they were always so welcoming.

Lastly, and most importantly, I want to thank the team’s SID, Kristy, and coach, Ron. Without Kristy, none of this would have been possible. She’s one of the best, a fact I learned at my first Princeton hockey game after I gracelessly tripped on the steep stairs that led to the locker room. Kristy instantly asked if I was hurt and offered to have the trainer help.

Ron is one of the best coaches around and an even better person. Since the day he took over, Ron has emphasized the importance of relationships in building a program. They’re the most important things not only in hockey but in life.

All of these people – from the staff, to the coaching staff, to the players, fans and families – made Baker feel like home from my first game in January 2013.

I know this team is in good hands. I know this team is on its way to being a force and I’m only sorry I won’t be there to chronicle it.

Geographically, I’m not sure where life will take me. If I’m still in the area, I’ll sneak into Baker from time to time. If I’m not, I’ll still pay close attention to this program. I haven’t decided the future of the website, but it will definitely stay up and the content archives will still be accessible. There are also some stories and interactives that I’m trying to put up in the offseason.

My goal when I started covering this team was to become a better journalist. I think I’ve accomplished that. But I also hope I’ve become a better person.

So to the wonderful community: please keep in touch! And if there’s anything you ever need, please let me know. I will always consider this place my home.

It’s very hard for me to leave. But I’m excited for my next adventure, whatever that may be.

At my first Princeton senior night, Andrew Calof’s mom asked me how I did it all.

I told her it was love.

And love is what makes it so hard to say goodbye.

But as Winnie The Pooh said: “How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

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2 Comments

  1. What a beautifully-written and heartfelt goodbye :’) I understand how it feels to let go of something that has been so good because life needs you to move on. Hope you’re well!

    • Thank you so much Disen! It was difficult but I’m excited for what’s next. I’ve been doing well, I hope you’ve been well too 🙂

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