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Clark Brooks is leaving Raw Charge to pursue other endeavors. Hopefully he won’t be allowed to write about himself in the third person like this.

I know I look like somebody ate Jeffrey Dean Morgan.

I’ve been a part of the Raw Charge staff since June of 2010, after being recruited by the site’s founder, John Fontana. It’s time for me to move on, though. Effective immediately, like as soon as you finish reading this (maybe sooner, if you’re a slow reader), I’m leaving Raw Charge to focus on writing for The Identity Tampa Bay, where I’m writing a weekly column covering the local stand-up comedy scene; not sports and not the Tampa Bay Lightning.

It’s been an entertaining, satisfying sojourn. I refuse to say “long, strange trip” because I haven’t actually traveled anywhere plus everybody says “long, strange trip” and as sports fans, you are already bombarded with far too many trite, hack-y clichés.

As a fan myself, I’ve always tried to stay away from traditional, empty-headed, “hot take” sports-speak here at Raw Charge and I’m beyond grateful for the opportunity, encouragement and freedom to do so, first under John and then under Achariya.

As the first blogger granted press credentials and a seat in the Amalie Arena press box by the Tampa Bay Lightning, it was a lot of fun being at the front of that initial wave of new media working its way into the mainstream. I think there was some scrutiny at first but I strived to conduct myself in a manner that reflected well on the blogging community, eventually leading to greater acceptance and a measure of respect from the organization and the established sports media. There are bloggers from a number of sites in the press box at every game now. I’m really proud of whatever part I played in helping that come to be.

Not everyone was as pleased with me as I was. For some still-unknown reason, Gary Shelton, then of the St. Pete Times, blocked me on social media, in spite of the fact that even to this day, we’ve never spoken. I check every now and then to see if that’s still the case and it is. For some odd reason, I’m proud of that too.

For that matter, the Times’ Damian Cristodero never spoke to me either. I have no idea why. On the other hand, Eric Erlendsson, then of the Tampa Tribune and now lightninginsider.com, welcomed me from the start and has been nothing but open and accommodating over the years. So, blocked by one guy, ignored by another and openly accepted immediately by a third. 33%. Not bad, especially considering the one who was cool is the best and most knowledgeable writer of the bunch by far.

I’m also proud of some of the work I was able to produce here at Raw Charge, especially the interview I conducted with Patrick Burke of the “You Can Play” Project. It felt good to chronicle hockey’s role in addressing a serious social issue.

It’s always felt good to be able to write about The Hockey Family, that collective to which we all belong that transcends team allegiances. Such as the time The Family rallied on behalf of Jack Jablonski and Jenna Privette, Minnesota high school players who suffered severe spinal injuries within days of each other. Footnote: Taylor Peterson, who is quoted in the story, is the daughter of Paul “Saint Paul” Peterson who was the frontman for one of Prince’s side project bands in the ‘80s... The Family.

Another stand-out moment was the time I interviewed a then-unemployed John Tortorella after he coached against Dave Andreychuk in the Battle of the Badges at Hockey Day in Tampa Bay in 2015:

ME : How fun is it for you to get involved in low stakes, but competitive hockey, where it’s not life or death out there?
TORTS: Wait a minute, wait a minute! I wanted our team to beat Andy (Dave Andreychuk) and I told them that! (Laughs) No, It was fun.

When he said, “wait a minute”, I immediately froze and thought, “Uh-oh; what if he’s having a flashback and thinks I’m Larry Brooks?!?” I was relieved that he let me off the hook right away. Still, getting “Wait a minute”-ed by John Tortorella was a true, albeit slightly terrifying honor, and something not every writer can say happened to them. I’ll never forget it.

We’ve now reached the point in this kind of send-off where the writer thanks people, so here’s that:

  • Bill Wickett, Brian Breseman and Trevor Van Knotsenberg with Lightning media relations for opening the door for me and other bloggers in the first place.
  • John Fontana, Cassie McClellan, Achariya and everybody that’s shared the Raw Charge masthead over the years.
  • Vincent Lecavalier, Marty St. Louis, Guy Boucher, Nigel Kirwan, Steven Stamkos, J.T. Brown and Ben Bishop. I never had a negative interaction with any players or coaches but these guys were always especially receptive and helpful and made my life easier on multiple occasions.
  • Paul Porter, Jay Feaster, Dave Andreychuk, Walt Marsicano, Matt Sammon, Dave Mishkin, Thomas Fernandez, Scott Audette, Greg Wolf, Rick Peckham and Bobby “The Chief” Taylor for just being genuinely nice people and a pleasure to deal with on a regular basis.
  • Jan Porter and all the Lightning PR interns who make a writer’s life in the press box so comfy that it’s hard to imagine why sports writers would ever feel justified in complaining about anything, let alone everything.

Most importantly, and I really hope this doesn’t come off as pandering because I honestly couldn’t be more sincere, I want to thank you, the Raw Charge readers. I always saw my role in this whole endeavor as being one of you, a fan of this team, with access to resources not available to you and fortunate to be put in a position to share them. I have always taken that responsibility seriously and always kept it in the forefront of my mind to never condescend to you or regard you with anything other than total respect. Maybe some of it is my own arrogance, but I don’t write for stupid people. Never have, never will. I love this team but I love the people who root for it even more and it has truly been an honor and privilege to serve you in this role. Thank you all so much.

And with that, I’m out. I’m not moving away so I’ll be around. You can find my writing at The Identity Tampa Bay or me, myself in person around the arena itself. Or come see me tell jokes at some posh comedy palace and/or seedy dive near you; my event calendar and other various nonsense I’m involved with can be found here (hey, I have a gig at The Improv this Thursday!).

Thanks again. Go Bolts and tip your servers.