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Ten Years After - Choo Choo Mama

After ten memorable years, it is time for me to step down as manager at Canes Country

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Ten summers ago, I had a hair-brained, crazy idea to start a hockey blog.   My favorite team had just won the Stanley Cup and it seemed like no one other than the local paper was talking about it.

Also, I was never happy with the general perception around the league about our market as well as our fans and I hoped to do something about it.

I thought that perhaps by starting a blog, I could provide Carolina fans another outlet with a different perspective which contributed additional information about the team,  information that the regular media did not have the time or resources to provide.  I also hoped to show the hockey world in general that Carolina did have knowledgeable fans who had a passion for hockey.

Another goal of mine was to give fans a place to vent or share their knowledge, or share information.

In 2006, blogging was not as prevalent or mainstream as it is now and very few bloggers had press credentials with teams.  Thankfully, after a couple of years the Hurricanes gave me that opportunity and I have worked very hard to make the most of it.  I really appreciate the access the Hurricanes have given me over the years via Canes Country and hope that I have made it worthwhile for the organization as well as for our readers.

I started my blogging career off by naming each of my articles with song titles.  After awhile, I found out that was not the best strategy for SEO, but I kept doing it a bit longer because it was fun!  I also used the pseudonym "Bubba" which most likely was not the best idea either.

The site's traffic grew pretty quickly regardless of my ignorance about some things and within a year I was invited to do a podcast with Joe Ovies on 850 The Buzz.  When I arrived at the studio, Joe's first words to me when he saw me were,  "Wow, you're a lot older than I thought you would be!"  I took it as a compliment and I laughed with him.  No, I was not a teenager blogging from my mom's basement.

Over the years I participated in several different podcasts with a variety of participants, including my original cohorts, Scott Cason, Dave McBrayer, and Andy Liles.  When I moved to SBN, our crew then tried a Canes Country version of Blog Talk Radio as well as other podcasts, which was fun.  But the podcasts were never my forte.  My first love was always writing.

This blog has given me so many memories and so many opportunities to meet people that I cannot even begin to scratch the surface, but I would like to share a few highlights.

One day I got a thank you email from the Fritsch family for writing about "KK"'s singing in an article.  They wanted to meet me and thank me in person, so we agreed to get together during the intermission of a game.  "KK" gave me some cookies she baked and a hand-made thank you card, (which I still have in my desk).   They are really a tremendous family.  By chance, we also met at a Panthers game a couple of years later.  It really is a small world!

More recently, I received an email from a high school friend I had not seen in over 20 years.  He started the email by saying " is this the same Bob Wage that went to school in upstate NY?"  Of course I recognized his name and we got together within days and had some great time catching up.  Brian was a fine hockey player in college.  He moved to this area a few years earlier and eventually turned into a die-hard Hurricanes fan, just like me.  Unfortunately, he passed away a few months after that email, but I am extremely grateful for the extra time we were able to spend together, thanks to this blog.

I used to meet up with friends for annual fantasy drafts and tried to keep up the tradition with the blog every year.  At one time we had eight fantasy leagues going on here and I provided trophies for the winners, but I just have not had the time to do that in recent years.

I had the pleasure of attending and covering three NHL Drafts, an All Star Game, and an Awards Show in Las Vegas and had the chance to meet several folk whom I had just known via Twitter or blogging.

I could go on and on and on, but I really need to finish this article.  I want to sincerely thank everyone who sent and keeps sending emails, thanking me for creating the blog, for providing information, or who just wanted to chat about the team in general and share their opinions with me.  I get emails from Hartford, from Europe, from the West coast, and everywhere in between.  There are Hurricanes fans literally all over the world who crave information about their team.

It has been a pleasure to meet with some of you and perhaps I will still meet with those of you that I have not met yet.

I have a ton of people to thank who have helped with the blog. My first partner in crime, Cory Lavalette, not only helped with writing but also provided me advice when I needed it.  Cory has a degree in journalism, (and works as a beat writer now), so he was a huge help in many ways and he continues to be a good friend.  I also would like to thank Carolyn Christians, Brian Wert, Jeff Berrier, Jonathan Stout, Cory Spiers, and our other former writers over the years who were gracious enough to volunteer their time to contribute to Canes Country and our readers.

Of course, a big thank you to our current crew of Brian, Jamie, Kyle, Craig, and Matt for everything that they have done.

I also need to thank my family for putting up with this obsession over the years and finally, thank you very much to all of the readers here who made all the work worthwhile.

Why am I stepping down?

In 2009, I sold Canes Country to SB Nation and I have been working for them ever since as the blog manager.  Those of you who have been around awhile probably have noticed the additional advertisements and other changes.  SBN has grown to the point that they are now a multi-million dollar conglomerate and they have a very strong agenda for continued growth.  Simply put, the duties as manager here have grown to the point that I just do not have the time to do what is necessary.  I believe that the best thing to do is for me to step aside.

After writing 3500 plus articles here over  the past 10 years, it's also time for a change and a new challenge.  I am creating a new place to write and will continue to cover the team at this site, (still under construction).

Brian has offered to take over here and will be contacting those of you who filed applications to help out.  I think there is a very bright future for Canes Country and I look forward to watching the blog's continued success.  Perhaps I will be able to write occasionally here as a guest writer, we will see.

Even after a slow month of August, I think the place is in a prime mode for growth.  We normally crush it with our draft coverage and we did so again this summer.  On Friday, (first day of the draft), we had over 18,000 page views and then had another 12,000 plus on Saturday.  That is a two day record for the site.

I totally support Brian and the rest of the crew here and wish everyone the best of luck.

This is not a "goodbye", it is a thank you and a hopeful "see you later".   I wish you all well.