There’s something about a farewell that is monumentally more difficult than simply saying, “Hello.”
For now, this is exactly that — so long, sayonara, see you later.
What I can also say is that it is not goodbye.
After a little over two years in the East Kootenay, the time has come for me to say “arrivederci” and it’s a truly bittersweet feeling.
In the 10 years since I left home upon graduating high school in Calgary, I’ve lived in a great many number of places — Edmonton, Kamloops, White Rock, Toronto and little Kindersley, Sask. — and I’ve done a great number of things over that span. I even spent the better part of a summer living in Cold Lake, Alta.
Though work and school life has taken me to the ever-soothing waters of the Pacific Ocean and the always-stunning awesomeness of Niagara Falls, the beauty of the East Kootenay is the only place I’ve ever felt truly at home since leaving the first and only home I’d ever known.
A couple weeks ago after giving my notice, I went for a walk around Kimberley and couldn’t help but think how much I’m going to miss living and working in such a gorgeous part of our country.
I gazed up at the bare runs of Kimberley Alpine Resort where, for the first time in my life, I learned how to ride a snowboard, survive said ride and eventually grew to love the thrill of a bluebird day with nothing but fresh powder to carve.
I walked along Mark Creek and soaked up the calming choir of the babbling brook that runs right past my backdoor.
I couldn’t help but grin as many smiles, nods and greetings passed me along the path.
As many know, I chose to live in Kimberley while working in Cranbrook and given the opportunity to do it all over, I’d do it in exactly the same fashion.
Reflecting back, I’ve come to realize that going about my time in this way afforded me a great opportunity to get to know both communities in equally fantastic fashion.
Over the course of this week, I’ve spent the bulk of it entrenched in the press box at Western Financial Place, taking in my third Kootenay ICE training camp. As I walk the concourse, I’m once again met with smiles and warm conversation.
Between the kind-hearted people of both towns, the beautiful mountain backdrop and the endless possibilities surrounding these communities, my heart aches to leave it all behind.
Life has a strange way of dictating our path and for me at this moment, that means going back to the first place I called home. While I depart, it is without hesitation I tell you the East Kootenay has become my second home. That is a fact I have absolutely no doubt in.
The experiences I’ve had while manning the sports desk for the Townsman/Bulletin have been nothing short of exhilarating.
From my first week covering the Kootenay ICE and wondering if I would survive, to the championship run of the Kimberley Dynamiters, each and every moment has been special.
I’ll forever remember my first WHL post-game interview with Jaedon Descheneau — a conversation in which I was perhaps a bit too bold and a bit too brash, leaving him less than impressed with me.
Wyatt Hoflin’s outstanding 51-save shutout performance late in the 2015-16 season will remain etched in my mind as one of the gutsiest performances by any goaltender.
Being on hand for the jubilation of Kimberley’s first junior hockey championship since 1980 was a privilege and restored my faith in the belief that a town does indeed still rally behind its local sports heroes.
Witnessing the heartbreak of defeat in 2015 at the Cyclone Taylor Cup in Mission, B.C., and in 2016 at the KIJHL championship in 100 Mile House, and seeing the community’s response furthered that faith.
I could go on and on about memorable moments and quality individuals, but I won’t bore you with a list that would likely end up with hundreds of bullet points.
I do have to have extend my deepest gratitude to Barry Coulter, Karen Johnston and all the staff, past and present, at both the Cranbrook Townsman and Kimberley Bulletin. They took a cold call from an unknown kid lost in the prairies of West Central Saskatchewan and they gave him a chance. I’ll forever be grateful for the opportunity afforded me and the chance to cover the Western Hockey League for the first time.
A sincere thank you goes out to the Kootenay ICE Hockey Club and the Kimberley Dynamiters Hockey Club. I have the utmost respect for both organizations and all those involved, past and present, in the day-to-day operations. I’d list everyone with both clubs, but the list is far too long. There are good people, from top to bottom with both clubs, and I thank each and everyone of them for welcoming me into their respective rinks, dressings rooms and more.
Another thank you goes out to the Cranbrook Bandits Baseball Club and College of the Rockies Avalanche Athletics for inviting me to the diamond and the gym, respectively.
With that being said, I’ll use my final soapbox to plead that our communities support the Kootenay ICE. I know there are a many great reasons why people have their varying opinions regarding this franchise, but I beg of you to look at the bigger picture and acknowledge how great of an asset this is for the community and the region as a whole.
Don’t let one petty issue or another ruin a good thing for the East Kootenay.
The Kootenay ICE needs the support of the community — fans and local businesses — just as much as this community needs the Kootenay ICE.
If this team is left with no option but to vacate the premises at Western Financial Place, you won’t just be trying to fill the void of an anchor tenant in a big rink, you’ll be faced with the reality of a gaping hole in the community, a hole that simply can’t be filled by anything else.
On that note, I will move towards conclusion, because I’m clearly starting to get emotional as I slap these final words on the page.
If there’s anything that tells you, it’s how important these communities — Cranbrook and Kimberley — are to me. This place has carved out a serious space in my heart and though I’m leaving today, I’m hopeful there will be a new tomorrow that brings me back home some day.
It has been an absolute pleasure serving the communities of Cranbrook and Kimberley; thank you for reading.
“I won’t say goodbye, my friend, for you and I will meet again.” — Tom Petty