Loving the American Hockey League is hard. It's difficult to stay passionate and positive about something that, by the very definition of it being a developmental league, must be ever-changing. Players are supposed to come and go. Team identities can change rapidly, and sometimes they never get fully-formed because rosters are changing too quickly for one to solidify. Players are young, and seasons go south when cohesiveness and responsibility isn't actively encouraged by both coaches and leadership in the locker room. It's just the very nature of the beast.
I've loved this league for twelve seasons (well, maybe eleven and a half...ish...), and I've been active in blogging circles about it and the Syracuse Crunch since 2008. I started with a shared site that featured a small rotating group of writers before I was lucky enough to be welcomed here on SB Nation. Prior to all of this blogging stuff, I was a participant in and a moderator for Dave's Message Board, one of the most popular Crunch sites in team history. I still look back on that community and the connections I made there fondly, as it's sort of what started it all.
When I first started with online hockey communities over a decade ago, I did it because I wanted to support the Crunch, and because I wanted to learn more about the team and about hockey. I wanted to help further the Crunch's mission while also giving a voice to like-minded fans. I think I managed to make a positive impact on the Crunch community, and I'm proud of that. It's been a strange ride, but it's been one I don't regret getting on, even now. I've met some incredible people along the way. I've made some amazing friendships that I will always value. However, I've recently realized something rather significant: This past season (for more reasons than just one) has totally and completely burned me out.
Stick a fork in me, kids. Mama's done.
I am going to return as a Crunch season ticket holder in the fall, though I am certainly among those who are frustrated with the on-ice product and who are dissatisfied with Howard Dolgon's overall vision for the organization. But the Crunch itself is a connection to many people who are important to me, including my absolute best friend in the world. It's brought me a lot in the 12 years I've been following it. I still love it, even as exhausted as I am by it. So, I've made a compromise with myself: I will stay with the Crunch for at least one more season, but I will see what I can rekindle by spending that season as just a fan. I don't plan on blogging, though I'll still be around on Twitter. I'm just tired of struggling with what to say when there just isn't anything to say. I'm tired of it always being in my face, of having to think about it all constantly, of it being like a job when it isn't my job.
I'm hoping, of course, that next season will feature a winning team, or at least a team where effort and respect is always a top priority. I'm also hoping that the Crunch will see a consistent level of support from our parent club for the entirety of 2016-17. A combination of those things would go a long way towards easing fans' minds, but they wouldn't be enough to make me want to continue with blogging. As only part of my recent struggles with writing have come from the on-ice product itself, it's just time to stop.
I really appreciate everyone who stuck with me throughout the years as my writing moved from site to site, and everyone who gave me encouragement and an empathetic ear when I needed it. I also owe a lot to those who gave me a way to share my voice with a bigger audience here on SB Nation. All of those people have made my life richer, and I've been lucky in that I've felt respected and supported a vast majority of the time.
As I said, it's been a ride. Thanks so much for coming along.