Ten years ago at 9:29 PM EST, on a completely free Blogspot site, I put up my first post at In Lou We Trust. It was a short introduction to the site and it jumped right into the most current issue of the team. The New Jersey Devils beat the Florida Panthers 2-0 to end a three game losing streak. However, Scott Gomez was injured with some kind of groin injury. I listed four possibilities for Gomez replacement ahead of a Saturday game against Columbus. They were, in order, Patrik Elias, Zach Parise, a rookie named Travis Zajac, and putting Sergei Brylin there while moving Erik Rasmussen up and possibly calling up Petr Vrana or David Clarkson for a fourth line spot. Oh, and Claude Julien was the head coach. That was what it was like ten years ago in terms of the team. And I ended the post with not a thank you, but “Go Devils.”
As far as the larger hockey writing scene, well, there wasn’t much. Message boards were the most popular places for discussion. I spent more hours than I could care to count on the Devils board at Hockey’s Future. NJDevs.com was and remains a community as well. But there was no Reddit. There was no Twitter – at least, not like how it is now. Facebook had not blown up the way that it has either. Smart phones? Not ready – not yet, at least. Me? I was a graduate student at the Rutgers School of Engineering, I didn’t even have a proper day job yet (I think I was still a graduate assistant for a professor though), and I was nervous about my first post. Blogs? I liked reading blogs on other topics but lamented that there weren’t any Devils blogs. Or many hockey blogs. I was only aware of a few like Eric McErlain’s Off Wing Opinion and, Steve Ovadia’s Puck Update. I’ve had the thought of doing one myself and, back in 2006, I finally worked up the nerve to do it.
Since then, the nerves went away and I just kept doing it. Game previews. Game recaps. Reactions to injuries, shifts in lines and defensemen pairings, management and marketing issues, transactions, draft picks, and perhaps my biggest focus of all: the performance of the team on the ice. I’ve made thousands of posts, tens of thousands of comments, and surely more than 5 million words about the New Jersey Devils.
I remember catching James Mirtle’s attention and that led to the creation of this blog at SB Nation. I’m not sure, but I think I was the sixth or seventh NHL-team specific blog. I think Mile High Hockey, Pension Plan Puppets, Lighthouse Hockey, Winging it in Motown, Second City Hockey, and Die by the Blade predated me. Mirtle was the hockey manager for SBN as the network grew to include blogs for all thirty teams and a few other special ones. I’ve seen a lot over the eight years here at SBN. I saw the rise of hockey analytics and tried to figure it out and apply it to NJ as I went. Back when Gabriel Desjardins had Behind the Net, Vic Ferrari’s Time on Ice was the challenging-but-useful tool that pulled game stats, and many of the discussions were growing. I saw the rise of using social media for the blog. Twitter, I picked up on. Facebook, I don’t use. I saw and used three different blogging platforms with two completely different looks of the site on SBN – which in of itself is a big change from Blogger. Oh, and I oversaw a name change from In Lou We Trust because Lou did something I never would have guessed or dreamed or even wanted to think about: go to another team. Needless to say, I have a lot different memories scattered about from this whole adventure into blogging.
Among what I’ve taken away the most is that I really, really enjoy doing this. This site means a lot to me and it means a lot to me that people do read, share, agree, disagree, comment, link, and discuss what is up at the site. I’m definitely one of those people who can talk for hours about the Devils. Not having too many people to talk to about them meant that blogging was a perfect outlet for it. It was one of the first major decisions that I’ve made in my life all on my own. I didn’t ask anyone whether it was a good idea. I didn’t get it as a suggestion. I just wanted to do it, I found a way to do it, and, well, it’s led me to do things I’ve never expected.
Here is a short list of what I have done with In Lou We Trust & All About the Jersey that I likely would not have done if I didn’t do it: I’ve learned more about hockey and have been able to demonstrate what I’ve learned. I’ve helped others learn more about hockey. I’ve improved (somewhat) at writing. I’ve became a regular on a podcast about the Devils. I’ve made a video series about a hockey simulator. I was inspired to take on larger projects like reviewing all goals against in a season or all penalty kills in a season. The latter led me to present something at a hockey analytics conference from this past September. I was in the press box for the 2013 NHL Draft and asked an awkward question to Steve Santini about “Be a dude.” I was invited by the Vanderbeek management with media credentials for the Jersey Tour from years back. I was actually asked if I wanted press credentials – and I turned them down. I was on Hockey Primetime a few times. I’ve been asked a question by the Hockey News, which made it into one of their issues. I’ve had the 2010 Playoff ending recap quoted by a New York Times blog, which led to a thank you from the legendary Canadian band, No Means No. I was in books – specifically, the Hockey Prospectus annual series for a number of years. I even defined a mission statement for the site after the name-change; and it’s something I remind myself time and again as to what this is all about. (I’m proud of many posts, that’s one of them) And so many previews, recaps, and analysis posts that I or someone else wrote here. I sometimes look back and marvel of what was done. I’m sure I’m missing several other accomplishments; I’m actually still amazed that I can just think of this many off the top of my head. It’s a lot and I expected about none of it.
The biggest one is what I get on a nearly daily basis. The assurance that people read the site. I have never really got used to having people thank me or come up to me at a game or ask something aobut the Devils through a comment, a Tweet, or an email. I’m continually and pleasantly surprised when I get feedback. I really do appreciate it all. I don’t want to become so used to it. Thank you; I continue to work to earn your readership so to speak. I’ve never been good at networking or being all that social; I’d rather just write about hockey. And so I do. That you all read and use the site in your own ways justifies that there are Devils fans that want to read about hockey at a hockey blog that largely sticks to hockey. (Aside: It’s easy if you try, fellow bloggers, I’ve done it for just about a decade.) Not only that, but written pieces about the Devils that is more than just a slap-dash AP report or parroting the conventional wisdom or a thought that is has the value of a potato chip. Nothing against chips, but they don’t fill one up properly. I write a lot because I think the team deserves the detail and the fans want details. Thank you for justifying that thought every day for ten years. You’re as much as All About the Jersey as I am.
The second biggest one is related also a near-daily reminder: that there are other writers on this site. Ever since I asked TibbsBeastoftheEast to help out at ILWT, I’ve had a lot of help and a lot of great posts from others on this very blog. I’m especially proud that I have been able to ask you, the reader, to be a voluntary writer and take on some role on the site to make it what it is today. I never liked rejecting those entries because I am honored, in a way, that someone wants to spend their free time to be a part of this. And that just about all of those who have applied just “get” what the site is all about. So I thank in no particular order for their contributions to this site and spending their time, no matter how much or how little it was – all of the writers (and I’m sorry if I missed a name or two): Tibbs, Steve Lepore, Matt Ventolo, Kevin Sellathamby, Tom Stivali, David Sarch (not a writer, but with so many episodes of TR, I’m including him), Jerry Tierney, Matt Evans, Karen Meilands, Rob Watson, CJ Richey, Nate Pilling, Josh Weinstein, JT Sroka, Mike Stromberg, Brian Franken, Steve Wozniak, Chris Moxley, CJ Turtoro, Alex Potts, Gerard Lionetti, Nicholas D’Alessio, Shane Kinsley, Ryan Stimson, Matt Mowrer, Matt Torino, Devin Yang, and Trevor Post. I don’t make it to ten years without their assistance in some way or form; the site certainly wouldn’t be what it is today. I thank them all too.
And I especially have to thank others as well. I have a day job that allows me to have this be a hobby. I thank them for that. I have a family plus one that has been nothing but supportive of this whole blogging thing. And I so thank them for their support. I thank James Mirtle and Tyler Bleszinski (who is a Devils fan and thankfully did an A’s blog that kickstarted the whole network) for on-boarding me here at SBN and the SBN staff for providing the tools and the platform for this site. I thank them all, too. I still look forward to Devils games and what they do; the passion has not ceased. So I have to thank the Devils for being the team that I still love.
What is my end game? I was asked this in a phone conversation by Timo Seppa of Hockey Prospectus back in 2010. (Aside: I respect what he and the HP people were doing back in the day, from Cory Pronman to Tom Awad to Rob Vollman). We were catching up and he wanted to know if I wanted to help with the Devils for the HP book. I wasn’t quite an author; just a part of the “special thanks” section and listed before Wayne Gretzky. I didn’t have much of an answer then. I don’t have one now. When it’s the offseason, I get asked what I’ll do with the site. I answer, “Keep writing, the hockey doesn’t stop.” That’s not always true, unfortunately. The 2012 portion of the 2012-13 season was lost due to a lockout. Even then, I made plans to try to keep the site somewhat active while the NHL and NHLPA engaged in labor strife that I didn’t really care to pick sides on because I just want the Devils to play. And we did. It wasn’t easy, but I made the effort. Looking back now, the blog never stopped even when the Devils were stopped. But with an active league somewhere, the hockey really doesn’t and so neither does the site. So I don’t.
I do have a mental list of what would lead to the end of my blogging about the Devils. I don’t think we’re near any of those points even though a lot has changed in ten years. I’m older, some of the energy isn’t there, but I still enjoy doing this. And with other writers to fill in the gaps when I’m unable, the site has continued to be A Thing. I don’t know what it will lead me to do for the next ten years, but as long as the Devils don’t stop for good, none of those points on that list are hit, and you all keep reading and supporting the site, I can see myself writing a post celebrating a twenty year anniversary and listing a whole new set of accomplishments I could not predict would happen. I haven’t fully stopped blogging. I don’t intend to now. When it comes to blogging about the Devils, whether it’s here or elsewhere on my own again, I’m not stopping yet.
Thank you for reading. Go Devils.