Hi everyone. I wanted to give you a quick heads up and let you know I'll be guest blogging later tonight during the Thrashers game against Minnesota over at the Thrashers website: www.atlantathrashers.com. Feel free to stop by and fire off some questions to yours truly.
One follow-up thought regarding the NHL debut of Atlanta coach John Anderson this past Friday night. I could only imagine what must have been running through his head when his name was announced to the sell-out crowd during the pre-game introductions. Here's a guy that had a solid career in the National Hockey league, then coached for what seemed to be forever in the minor leagues.
His first job was in the Southern Hockey league at Winston-Salem. The GM of the Mammoths literally begged him over the phone to take the job after the person that had been hired to coach the team ( a video coach from rival Greensboro) backed out because of a fear of being in over his head. Anderson took the gig, then was stiffed out of about $20,000 by the team at the end of the season. It left such a bad taste in his mouth that he almost quit coaching to help run a friend's marketing company in Canada. Instead, he took another shot, landing in Quad City and then Chicago. He was passed over twice for the Thrashers head coaching job before getting the call from general manager Don Waddell this past summer.
I love the stories that come out of the minor leagues, probably because I'm a product of such enviornment. In 1985, I took my first broadcasting job in Flint, Michigan for $12,000 a year. The team was awful, finishing 16-66-0 which ended up being the worst record of all-time in the now defunct International Hockey League. Halfway through that season, ownership was ready to fold the team if we didn't all agree to 50% paycuts for three weeks (players included). We agreed to the pay cuts and my salary was cut to $125 a week for a brief period that February. By April, we were all out of a job. So in theory, my salary wasn't $12,000 but more like $7000 for seven months of hell.
It's a bond that Anderson and myself have shared for years. When you work, coach or play in the minors, you're always hoping for that one shot at the big time. That's why you keep plugging along, sleeping on busses sans heat for 10 hour roadtrips, dining at Denny's on Christmas night in Salt Lake City. You have roommates that help cut expenses.
You drive Chevettes. You hold out hope.
My Uncle John was a sportswriter that covered Notre Dame for years. Early in my freshman year at college, we had a heart to heart. I was an accounting and finance major at Michigan State who was having a tough time with the required math courses. For years, I had considered a career path in journalism or broadcasting. After heading home for Christmas break in December, 1981, we sat down and I shared my dilemma. Should I stay a business major or should I follow my dream? He looked at me and said casually, "well, you never want to look back 20 years from now and say 'what if'".
His words literally changed my life. And at some point many years ago, Anderson experienced a completely seperate, but similar life changing event that only those with minor league memories can appreciate. Here's hoping he enjoys every minute of the "bigs".