This is not a farewell, but simply a see you later.
In September of 2011, I had no idea the Arctic Ice Hockey website existed.
At the time, my online footprint remained within its own small boundary of sites I frequented -- some regularly, some sporadically -- never thinking twice that the www I typed in my URL bar actually stood for World Wide Web.
Let it be known that despite only being in my mid-twenties, I'm not as tech savvy as I may sometimes let on. My browsing consisted of me loading up Firefox, erstwhile opening two tabs which were used to ubiquitously rotate between Yahoo! Sports Puck Daddy and Shutdown Corner. This was the extent of the blogging world in my mind.
It was while at Shutdown Corner that I was redirected to a blog called Dawgs By Nature, a site specializing in the coverage of the Cleveland Browns and I learned about SB Nation's existence.
"Hey, maybe this site has blogs for NHL teams too..."
I clicked the SB Nation link at the top left corner of the page.
"Holy shit! There's like three hundred sports blogs for me to choose from!"
Three hundred and twenty to be exact.
On August 25, 2011, I took the plunge; my hardcore fandom had reared it's geeky head and I officially signed up for an SB Nation account.
As the autumn foliage enveloped Winnipeg's landscape, I began following Dawgs By Nature and Japers Rink (Washington Capitals) more religiously. Both sites offered me all the daily coverage I could ask for. It was through these blogs that I would kill a few hours per day perusing through their content as well as the comment sections that accompanied each article.
As the Winnipeg Jets local hype bandwagon continued to churn, I started to grow bored of some of the writings afforded by the cities two major publications; The Winnipeg Free Press and Winnipeg Sun. Don't get me wrong, both papers employ an assemblage of well-respected authors, but it was difficult to find original material while constantly refreshing the two sites. Most news was being discussed equally by both scribes, right down to the quotes they were jotting from the players, coaches and management.
I had stepped out from the office on a mid-September weekday, and while eating lunch read that the Jets had invited well-known grinder David Koci to their training camp, via The Free Press.
"David Koci? You have to be kidding me..."
I scoured the web for more coverage on this addition to their camp roster. I typed David Koci Winnipeg Jets into the Google search bar of my IPhone and hit enter.
There, among the top results was a post entitled Mr. Koci Goes to Winnipeg. This was the first time I had ever read anything written by Benjamin Wendorf.
In his prose, Ben stated that the role of the NHL goon was antiquated and he did not want to see the Winnipeg Jets -- a team whom he stated to be his favourite -- bring in a player of Koci's ilk to play his two minutes of hockey, fight and then hit the showers.
"This guy gets me!"
My connection to his writing, moreover his matter-of-fact syntax, had me wanting to find more of his writings. I went back through his old posts and reviewed his The NHL's Most Interesting Name series and That Nagging Optimism. Ben's style had me hook, line and sinker.
The beauty in Ben's writing is that he's never been afraid to tell it the way he sees it -- something I relate too -- and has always done so from a fans perspective. As SB Nation's credence states: Pro Quality, Fan Perspective. Ben was a great encapsulation of this motto.
As the calendar turned to October, I remained a casual observer to Ben's day-to-day coverage of the team. While he provided me with Jets news as best as a Wisconsinite could, I struggled through Gabe's work which covered PDO, Corsi and Fenwick. Ed. Note: Until a few weeks ago, I didn't know the word was pronounced Corse-eye. I wanted to understand it, but at that point it was way over my head, similar to most Andrew Ladd shots directed on goal.
On November 1, 2011 I was amidst my daily read when I noticed Gabe was looking for a writer to help with the day-to-day Jets coverage for the blog. Both Derek and I applied and the rest, as they say, is history.
My first introductory post received one comment; it was Ben welcoming me to the team. I always found it pretty cool that as an Editor for the site, he always took the time to converse with readers and authors alike in the comments section; driving the discussion forward as I amicably termed it to no one in particular /Fenwick joke. When I wrote an analytical piece on the value of Kyle Wellwood, it was Ben who defended my thesis, despite me not having the slightest clue whether what I had offered to readers made sense.
If you couldn't meet a deadline on a game review it didn't matter, Ben had you covered. If you needed help with resources, including access to NHL GameCenter, Ben was your guy. Always wiling to help and always striving to improve the quality of material provided by this site.
Months later, I collaborated with Ben on a few podcasts which we ran on Saturday's. It always a difficult feat to accomplish, not because bandying on about hockey was hard for either of us, but because afterwards we would talk on Skype for hours about sports, our personal lives and future goals we hoped to achieve. It was during this time that I realized not only was Ben a good writer and connoisseur of the game, but a good friend as well.
I write you all this long drawn out post because we learned last night that Ben will be stepping down from his post with Arctic Ice Hockey to continue pursuing his personal and scholastic endeavours. While he insists that he will still remain part of the community (we wouldn't have it any other way), it's difficult to fathom seeing less of Ben's unique brand of opinion and analysis around the site.
As I said to him via email, this situation feels like a falling out with someone you consider to be a good friend. However, I remain comforted by the fact that Ben will always be only a comments section away and, much like the senile old man at the retirement home, will still compel the community to put up with his ramblings; be they coherent or not.
Ben, please accept my most sincere thanks for all the hard work and dedication you have put into the 400-plus posts and thousands of comments at this blog. Without the effort put in by Gabe and yourself the past few years, this site would not be where it is today. On behalf of your peers, colleagues and readers here at Arctic Ice Hockey, we wish you nothing but the best as you close this chapter in your life.
Thanks for the memories.