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This isn’t really a column about hockey. It’s a column about perspective.
Much of my perspective has been formed as a professional sports writer, and that profession sure delivered a healthy dose of perspective during the past, emotional week.
It started with Matt Shott’s moment in the spotlight on Hockey Fights Cancer Night.
Then my old Athletic colleague Doug Haller interviewed me for this piece on a former East Valley Tribune mentor, the late, great Bob Moran.
Then my dad (and one-time hockey coach) turned 80 on Monday.
Then I read this piece from longtime Valley journalist Brad Cesmat on another former colleague’s brush with death (Paul Coro and I worked side by side at the Arizona Republic).
And then came Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, and the one-year commemoration of Leighton Accardo’s death after an 18-month battle with cancer.
The Coyotes honored Accardo between periods of their game against the Edmonton Oilers with a video that included scores of gut-wrenching interviews, including Jeremy and Carly, Lyndsey Fry, Matt Shott, Rick Tocchet, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Xavier Gutierrez and Leighton’s coaches and teammates.
I knew that the Coyotes would do this tastefully. They always do these sorts of events well, but it made me smile because when I interviewed the Accardos in February for a story on Leighton, Carly Accardo’s most fervent wish was that Leighton’s legacy would endure; that she would not be forgotten.
The Accardos were not in attendance on Wednesday. They were enjoying a well-deserved break in Cabo that ended today, but I got to relay some of what was happening to Carly and I know that it meant a lot to her and Jeremy.
Once that tribute had ended, I took a walk to the end of the press box to step out into the stairwell and compose myself. I started thinking of all of the colleagues and NHL staff that have departed such as Pedro Gomez, Jukka Nieminen, Tom Kurvers, Jim Gintonio, Tim Tyers and too many more. I thought of the numerous family members and friends I have lost, some of whom crossed over into that colleague category.
When I attended the PHNX Sports Friendsgiving party, thrown by our awesome CEO Brandon Spano in Tempe on Tuesday, it was an odd feeling to be the old guy in the room. I am so used to working with seasoned veterans, so used to convincing myself that I’m still young relative to my peers.
It was a sobering reminder that time passes in the blink of an eye. And the entire week served as a reminder to appreciate the simplest of gifts: life.
When I woke up this morning, I still didn’t know where I was going with this column. In some ways, it feels like nothing more than a stream of consciousness. But on Thanksgiving, I am genuinely feeling thankful for a lot of things.
I’m thankful for a happy and healthy family (wife, two kids, two dogs and a cat).
I’m happy that my 80-year-old parents can still make the trek to and from Chicago, living the snowbird life.
I’m thankful that I get to cover the sport of my childhood for a living.
I’m thankful for the countless relationships that I have forged because of that job.
I’m thankful to work for an outlet that cares about creativity, exhaustive coverage and fun.
I’m thankful for colleagues who rib me about my age, but fool me into thinking that it’s an asset.
And I’m thankful for all of you who have supported me through so many iterations of this job that it’s almost comical.
I’ll leave you with the closing scene from one of my favorite movies, 2000 Oscar winner “American Beauty,” which I highly recommend if you have not seen it. The actor has been tainted, but the thought has not.
Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.
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