(Editor’s note: This is the third installment of what’s going to be a regular series here at SCH where we’ll reach out to other writers from around the SB Nation family to learn more about other writers’ history with the sport, how the Blackhawks line up with other teams, and some general hockey talk.)
Although Peter Flynn — an editor for Winging it in Motown — was born a hockey fan, his first team affinity was with the New York Islanders. “We grew up in south Connecticut, and my father was a big hockey fan. He had season tickets for the Islanders from their inception until they won the cup (in 1979). Then they just got too expensive.”
The highlight of being an Islanders fan, said Flynn, was something he doesn’t even remember. “Technically, I was watching when the Islanders won the Cup, but that was the year I was born so I don’t recall that. I was also technically watching the US win during the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid.”
Flynn says there were a few notable moments here and there in the years following, such as defeating the favored Penguins to make it to the semifinals against Montreal in 1993, but, he concedes, “other than that, being an Islanders fan was a pain. Basically, as an Islanders fan, you got 82 games and that’s it.”
He does have fond memories of watching the games in the old Nassau Coliseum, though. “It’s the crappiest place but also the best, basically it was the dive bar of stadiums,” Flynn said. He remembers him and his buddies getting tickets for $10 or $15 in Section 303 in the last row at center ice. “It was a three-hour drive from where I lived, which shows the level of commitment I had at that time.”
After a few painful years of sticking it out with the Islanders, Flynn’s father started following the Red Wings. “This was back in the day (mid-90s) when you could watch pretty much all playoff games on ESPN, so it wasn’t hard to follow another team.”
Finally, Flynn had had enough of the Islanders.
“About 7 or 8 years ago, the Islanders were so mismanaged. It was so hard to watch.”
He recalled watching the team’s core fail, thinking, “it felt like Lucy and Charlie Brown with the football. They always said ‘This year will be the year!’ and they just couldn’t do it. So, I transitioned to a full-time Detroit fan in 2011-2012, and I got to experience the last couple of good years when they made it to the Stanley Cup Playoffs and then lost. This was also Nicklas Lidström’s last season.”
Originally a computer engineering major at the University of Maryland, Flynn lost his scholarship because, “college wasn’t like high school where I didn’t have to study to get good grades, but I learned that too late.” He then joined the Navy and was a weapons technician for six years. While there, he started a news satire site called the Fake News, “I wanted to work for The Onion, but it’s impossible to get in there unless you know someone, so I started my own site.”
Flynn eventually decided to return to finish college as an English major in order to become a teacher. “I figured that I was really meant to be a teacher because at every step of my life, even in high school, as soon as I learned how to do something, I always wanted to help everyone out with it too.”
After becoming a “full-time” Red Wings fan, he discovered Winging it in Motown. “I read the blog and commented on the stories all the time, and I thought, ‘Hey, it would be fun to write about hockey, so I’m going to give it a shot.’ I saw they were hiring, so I sent in an application, spoke with (site managers) JJ and Kyle, and they hired me!”
“I dove into the deep end right away and volunteered to cover the 2015-2016 draft and free agency. Within a year I was an editor. It was a good lesson as a new sportswriter: just try and put yourself out there, even if you’re scared. It got me far.”
This preseason, Flynn wrote an article that resonates with the times: “I’m Not Really Excited for the Season to Start and That Sucks” which was picked up by the SB Nation main Twitter account. Flynn was worried, thinking: “Oh no, I’m going to get destroyed!”
In the article, though, Flynn explains:
“I found it harder to be motivated to write. It’s kinda a malaise. Last season I wanted there to be hockey, but at the same time I asked at what cost? With all this put together it’s made it hard to get excited about writing the way I used to. But then you remember, there’s fans who come to the site on a daily basis, and for a lot of people, having hockey helps them get away from this stuff, and I totally get that. I’m personally just not there yet, It’s a hard dichotomy. But I’m still going to do my best high quality writing, even if I’m not feeling it.”
In terms of team partiality, I had to ask: if Detroit keeps playing this badly will you change teams again?
“Ha ha. NO!”
“They would have to do something really bad at the management level for me to quit the team. That’s essentially what happened to force me to lose my affinity with the Islanders. But we have someone in charge now who knows what he’s doing and he’s going to keep making things better.”
Last year, Detroit had one of the worst seasons in modern memory and this season hasn’t been much better.
“I don’t think they’re going to be a playoff team, but by the time the season’s over they won’t be the worst, maybe bottom five,” Flynn said. “I mean, on paper, Chicago shouldn’t be playing that well, right? Like I’m asking, who’s this Pius (Suter) guy? And then he scored a hat trick against us! But I think this next time (Monday) versus Chicago is going to be way better. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s going to be a split between the rest of the games between us this month.”
Thanks Peter, now let’s go Hawks!