Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Kent Wilson Says Farewell to FlamesNation

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.

  • FN won’t be the same without you however, every door walked through only brings new doors to knock on. Good luck at Athletic Kent. There is no one more deserving from the writing community covering the flames than yourself and I look forward to reading more from you there. For the rest at FN I challenge you all to dare to dream like Wayne and Kent and continue to push the envelope of sports writing. Dare to create original content that pushes boundaries in sports writing. Be leaders like Kent.

  • BendingCorners

    I signed up for TheAthletic to access an article that was hiding behind a paywall. It was cheap enough to be worth a look. Glad you will be contributing and I hope the new site does well. Looking forward to reading your first article.

  • Canuckrat

    Wow, it only seemed like yesterday when I stumble across your Five-Hole-Fanatics website, then followed your trek as you moved to M&G, then tagged along as you continued forward to FN (and I’ll probably sign-up for ‘The Athletic’).
    I am more of an avid reader (I think I left a total of maybe 50 comments over the past 10 years) but I just wanted to thank-you for all the time & effort you put into all of the writing you’ve done over the years. You’ve helped me become a more knowledgeable hockey fan, improved my understanding of hockey metrics, and increase my overall interest in our team. Wishing you nothing but the best, CHEERS!

  • Scary Gary

    You will be missed Kent, I always looked forward to your balanced contributions; you definitely enhanced the way I view hockey. I also remember ordering a Gaudreaubey shirt from you when he was in college; you even dropped if off at my house! Above and beyond.

  • reidja

    I have been a reader since 2010 and have appreciated your objective, critical, thoughtful and at time brilliant work here on Flames Nation Kent. You reeled me in and kept me here.

    Good luck with the new venture.


    • BlueMoonNigel

      Hey, Busta, that’s my signature line!^^

      Plan B: Hey, Wilson, here’s your hat. What’s your hurry?

      While I won’t miss seeing Kent’s ugly mug beside his articles, he wrote about his favourite club with knowledge, passion, sometimes humour but always with respect to the team and to us the readers. I might not have always agreed with his points of view, but he articulated them clearly and defended them more with facts than emotions.

      Mr. Wilson, your contributions to this site will be missed by many.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      Hey, you stole my signature line! ^^

      Now all I am left with is, hey, Wilson, here’s your hat; what’s your hurry?

      Seriously, Kent is a very knowledgeable hockey writer and passionate Flames’ fan. I didn’t always agree with his points of view, but he articulated them very well and he supported them with facts, not emotions or creative speculation. As well as being respectful to his favourite team, he was respectful to us, his gentle readers, as he wrote to us in a way that acknowledged our intelligence as hockey and Flames’ fans. No dumbing down from this cat.

      Mr. Wilson, your departure from FN is a huge one.

      Happy trails, good sir.

  • flamesburn89

    Just wanted to say thanks to you Kent for all the amazing work that you’ve done here on Flamesnation. I first came here sometime around 2011 and read some of the articles that you and Robert Cleave put out. They were so new to me, being as stats-centric as they were, that I wondered if this site was a good place for me to be. I’m really grateful that I stuck around, and equally grateful to you for all the times you explained stuff like Corsi and PDO to uninitiated folk like me. You have really changed the way that I look at the game, and your Random Thoughts articles have been my favourite hockey related posts to read over the last number of years. Good luck over on The Athletic, & thanks for everything you’ve done here on FN.

    Long Live Backlund

  • Captain Ron

    Good luck with your new venture Kent. We just might have to go over there for a peek at “The Athletic”. It was Steinberg that brought me to this site with his “Flames Nation fire it up” plugs on the Fan 960 overtime show and you were a big reason why I kept on coming back. Like others have stated in their comments your insight into the game and how players were evaluated gave me a whole new perspective to consider that most of us had never heard of. Thank you for teaching an old Dog some new tricks. All the best to you in the future.

  • Craigster

    Good luck, Kent. You will be missed. I’ve been a daily visitor to this site, and I’ve always enjoyed your articles. Like many who visit here, you have made me a more knowledgeable fan. All the best to you in your future.

  • Keith M

    Thanks Kent, I appreciate what you built here at Flames Nation. I think I came across your comments on the Battle of Alberta Blog, then started following you at Five-Hole-Fanatics and kept following you around. I might actually pay for something on the internet and get a subscription to the Athletic. Good luck at the new job, don’t be a stranger around here.

  • Locker Room Talk

    I signed up for the Athletic a few days ago and I immediately thought of Kent for the Flames part of the site. Pretty exciting stuff. And I see your first article over there is making sure that the new base on the Athletic is well aware that there is no hope for Brouwer haha.

  • HAL MacInnis

    Thanks for the hard work, Kent. Been reading FlamesNation for a few years now and it’s easily the best Flames fan site. And just think, you guys did it all without cutting hockey player’s faces out and pasting them over the heads of people in photographs depicting an amusing context. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. 😉 I mean, I’d kill for a Mr. Bean / Giordano movie poster, but it’s the quality writing that has kept us engaged and coming back.

    Best of luck to you, Kent, and thanks for leaving us with a solid fan site for the future.

  • Brent G.

    As a reader who has followed and commented on your work for the past decade, thanks for everything Kent. You will be missed around these parts. Best of luck at at the Athletic

  • CatBear

    I no longer live in Calgary, and I find at times it can be difficult to find satisfying articles and an engaged community in order to keep up on my favourite team. I started visiting this site four years ago, and I visit it daily, in part because of excitement for the hockey team but also for the team of writers here. I have learned quite a bit from everyone here. Thank you for your hard work.

  • shaner

    congratulations Kent, as an oiler fan I always respected your take and opposite/ differing view. Felt that your writing was based on intelligent analysis. Obviously team oriented blogs attract a wide variety of contributors and all have there place I just felt you weren’t necessarily biased or harsh and thought your writing had a bit more of an msm feel to it as opposed to a hometown bias (compliments). Good luck.

  • T&A4Flames

    Thanks for all the years and magnificent articles, Kent. I always enjoyed and was impressed by your ability to argue both analytically and psychologically. So few are able to do so. Good luck in all your future endeavours and I will certainly check out your writings at The Athletic. ?

    • Falung_69

      I didn’t come here for you
      I did not even know you had such a big hand and such history to do with this site
      I did like ur style and stories
      I came here cause I love the Flames
      But Mate I do wish you the best in ur future en devours

      All The Best Dude