Friends, it’s the end of an era here at the Nations Network as our dear friend Kent Wilson has elected to explore other opportunities. Here’s his final contribution to FlamesNation.
My first article appeared on FlamesNation on February 2nd, 2009. This will be my last, almost nine years later. It’s been an incredible, challenging, and immensely rewarding ride.
Wanye and company approached months before that first post. Owners of the upstart OilersNation blog, they wanted someone to help grow the nascent sister Flames site.
I turned them down and went to build Matchsticks and Gasoline instead.
But they were persistent. And whereas I felt like a small cog in a big machine over at SB Nation, Wanye and group shared a mix of ambition, passion, and independence that was absent at the bigger conglomerate. They were also the first group to offer me anything close to notable money for my hockey writing.
Although the goal was to make FN as vibrant and popular as OilersNation, my interest was never to merely chase undifferentiated traffic at all costs. As a hockey writer, the thing that drives me is critical, in-depth analysis. I wanted to build a home for that kind of community here at FN, despite the fact there are easier paths to grabbing pageviews.
Although we chose the path less travelled, FlamesNation grew by an order of magnitude that first year – from 80,000 to 800,000 pageviews a season. We took another step forward, beyond a million page views in my second year, and haven’t really looked back since (except for that pesky lock-out).
Over the years, we’ve broken many other thresholds, including five million pageviews this past season. As the mainstream outlets around us have thinned out and reduced their coverage, FlamesNation has only gotten stronger.
Which is part of the reason it’s the ideal time for me to move on. You guys don’t really need me anymore. The community is booming. The contributors are all excellent. The content is pumped out like clockwork.
I think the goal of every creator or leader should be to build something so robust it eventually renders him or her redundant. Hopefully I’ve done that here.
Beyond the growth of readership and community at FN, I think I’m most fond of the people I got to work with to one degree or another during my time at the Nations. Our humble, independent network of hockey sites has been the launching pad for many careers in writing and the NHL over the years, and I’m proud to say I played a small part in that.
From Thomas Drance (Florida Panthers), to Dimitri Filipovic (SportsNet), Josh Weissbock (Florida Panthers), Travis Yost (TSN), Jonathan Willis (everywhere), Cam Charron (Toronto Maple Leafs), and many more, the Nations has been perhaps the most fertile proving ground for new MSM and front office talent over the last five to ten years.
Finally, I’d like to thank the many people who made this possible. Thank you Wanye and the OilersNation ownership group who took put their money on the line and took a massive leap of faith with me.
Thanks to some of my original contributors, including RossCreek Nation and Robert Cleave who helped fill in the gaps during the uncertain early days. Thanks to some of the established media in town who gave me a chance on more established platforms, including Pat Steinberg and Scott Cruickshank.
Thanks, also, to the current collection of writers and contributors at FN, especially Ari and Ryan, who make everything you see here possible through their tireless efforts every single day.
And, of course, thanks to all the readers who have supported me over the years. Your challenging comments and emails made me improve my thinking and coverage of the team. Your willingness to put up with esoteric references, arcane stats, and the (not so) occasional typo helped me turn a quirky hobby into a career. I’m lucky to count some of you as my friends.
As you may have guessed, I am not moving on from hockey writing entirely. I’m excited to announce I’m being given another chance to help build something unique over at The Athletic as their Calgary Flames contributor.
At FN, we showed that it’s possible to gather a dedicated audience around more challenging, in-depth analysis. At the Athletic, we want to see if there is enough of an audience willing to pay for that kind content, which would allow us to create an entirely new sports coverage experience.
Of course, I may appear at times in the comments to remind everyone how great Backlund is and you can always follow me on Twitter (@Kent_Wilson), or read my new stuff at the Athletic.
Good-bye FlamesNation and don’t ever stop arguing about Jankowski.