This summer at Raw Charge, we’re running a series where we highlight the great work our writers have done over the last year. We each received another staff writer to cover Secret Santa style and I got one of the easiest assignments.
Alex (Allokago) is so important to our site. She’s a key part of driving the editorial vision of the site as a whole and is the heart and soul of our Crunch coverage. She’s always available to edit and collaborate with other writers to make sure their articles go out looking as clean as possible. And, oh yeah, she’s a great writer too.
When I started at Raw Charge, I thought of AHL teams only in terms of their NHL affiliates. I viewed them as developmental teams whose goal should be to produce NHL players and nothing else. Alex quickly dispelled that notion. Unless the NHL team owns its affiliate, the relationship between NHL and AHL team has to be that of a true partnership.
The Syracuse Crunch have their own fan base for whom the NHL affiliation is secondary. They need to be competitive on the ice. They need to be fun off the ice. They need to be a well-run independent organization that creates an experience for their fans that ensures long term health and sustainability for the team. That means they can’t just be a prospect farm.
As a passionate Crunch fan, Alex has always ensured that our coverage reflected this perspective. With her in the lead, we cover the Crunch as the Crunch and not just as the Lightning affiliate. Sometimes, the best interests of the Crunch and Lightning are in conflict. Alex doesn’t hesitate to make that known and makes sure the voice of Crunch fans is heard.
She uses her voice not just to address the team’s play but to assess the organization as a whole. She wants the Crunch to uphold their values and be a positive influence in the community. When she feels they aren’t doing that, she will make that known. And, on the other side, she is always the first to give them credit when they deserve it.
Choosing one of Alex’s articles as a favorite is impossible so I’m going to choose two. Or, technically four if you count the two I just linked in the previous paragraph. These two are fairly recent and came at the conclusion of the Crunch season but they capture what makes her coverage of the crunch special.
The first is her season wrap-up article. The Crunch had a great season powered mostly by rookies. That they had such a great regular season was a surprise. But that regular season success led to increased hope and ultimately increased disappointment as the team lost to the eventual Calder Cup champions in the second round. Not disappointment in their play. By all accounts, this season was a success. But just the inevitable disappointment that comes when a talented team’s season ends.
Alex talked about why this season was such a roller coaster in her end of season reflections.
I’ve made the claim before that the AHL is not for the faint of heart. AHL teams are, by design, a jumping-off point for tomorrow’s NHL superstars. Players here aren’t meant to stay. Even vets don’t usually stick around with one team for more than two or three seasons. Rosters shift and move like the ocean, and sometimes it seems that the situations teams find themselves in are as heartless as a hurricane.
But the AHL is also a place for a level of hope and excitement that just can’t be found anywhere else. Roster ages generally lean towards the young side, and that youthful exuberance can easily revive even the most burned out fan (not that I’m speaking from experience or anything here, nope, naw, not at all). Fans get to know their players, get to see them as human beings and not just as untouchable superhuman “stars.” We might feel the victories and defeats of our teams a bit deeper because of that, sure, but it’s worth it.
That piece had of tinge of sadness, which is appropriate following the end of the season. A couple weeks later, she followed up with a fun photo retrospective. In collaboration with Scott Thomas, she recapped the Crunch season in photos and words. This is unique coverage that doesn’t exist anywhere outside of Raw Charge and is one of my favorite pieces that we ran during this hockey season.
Having access to Scott’s photography allowed Alex to tell the story of the season in a fun and unique way. If a picture is worth a thousand words, this article was a short novel that captured the spirit of the season and allowed readers to see and feel the team in a way that they never could without being in the arena all year.
If you haven’t already, go spend some time with that article because it’s a lot of fun.
The quality of our AHL coverage is one of the things that makes Raw Charge stand apart from other NHL blogs. And that quality is largely thanks to the precedent Alex sets both as a writer and as an editor. She makes our site stronger and we are lucky to have her on staff.