MOLINE, Ill — Thanksgiving time is upon us again. People are busy preparing to prepare their giant feasts that take all day to prepare but only half an hour to eat. Thanksgiving, to me, is a time to reflect on all the things we’re grateful for since last Thanksgiving. I did one of these types of articles a couple years back; I think it’s time to revisit the subject.

The first thing I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving isn’t really a thing — it’s people. My closest friends are people I’ve met through hockey. One day last season I received a message from some girl I had never even seen before, asking about some pictures I had posted on my Instagram account from one of the Quad City Mallards games. We started talking about hockey, and then just life in general, and I met her best friend. The three of us have gone on so many road trips in 10 months, from museums to seeing hockey teams. We’ve had adventures that made me question whether we’d ever make it back alive (I now have a phobia of minions from one adventure), but somehow they still trust me to drive them everywhere.

This summer, I went on my first vacation by myself because of hockey. But worry not, I wasn’t completely by myself. See, I started talking to Team Sin Bin’s Idaho Steelheads correspondent, C.C. Hawkley, back in January about goaltenders — well, actually, he started talking to me about goaltenders, and I answered. We quickly bonded over bad puns and treasured memories of television shows from our youth — though his youth was just a few years before mine — and I had a hare-brained scheme one night to go to Boise. I’ve wanted to see the Rocky Mountains for a long time, because my dad, who’s from Colorado Springs, would always talk about how beautiful they are and wanting me to see Pikes Peak one day. Well, I saw the mountains through the Denver airport’s windows — Boise is a fair bit west from the actual mountains, but there are the foothills. Before this August, I’d never been further west than Des Moines, which is a grand total of 180 miles from Moline, Illinois. I’d also never been in an airplane before. Well, thankfully C.C. was okay with me invading his city for four days and showing me around, so I flew out west. Surprisingly, I was okay with the whole “stuck in a small space for four hours with lots of strangers 35,000 feet up” thing; I’m both claustrophobic and deathly scared of heights.

I would never have done something as awesome as going out to Boise if it wasn’t for hockey. I never would have met C.C. without being involved in not only hockey but this wonderful website (more about that later), and without knowing him, I never would have gone to Boise. I always wanted to go on a great road trip out west, but could never get someone to go with me. So, I found someone to meet me at my destination. Say what you will, but I’m not really an adventurous person; I just have terrible impulse control sometimes, and I’m enabled by people to follow my impulses and not think about the fact that holy smokes I’m flying 1,600 miles to a big city BY MYSELF. Remember the Sea-Tac incident this August? Yeah, that was the morning I was going to fly out to Boise; not the best thing to be reading at two in the morning before flying for the first time.

I’m also extremely grateful for The Sin Bin. They took a chance in 2015 on a college student who had only written about hockey for a few months, and now I’m in the press box thanks to them. Our faithful editors Matthew Harding, Mike Campos, Samantha Hoffmann, and Kristen Wooten have all been tremendous. Campos worked his butt off getting me a press pass and handling my faux pauses as I got used to being in the box. The #BabesintheBox Wooten and Hoffman have been especially great this past year, helping me personally with some stuff #femalesolidarity.

Lastly, I’m thankful for the role models I’ve found through hockey. Rich Clune and Scott Darling have been outspoken about their pasts with addiction, and the #sicknotweak movement has also been a great help. Having players I can look up to as I fight my own battles is fantastic. When I wrote my first Thanksgiving article in 2016, I was three months sober; I wondered if people would read between the lines on why I chose Clune and Darling as the two players I look up to. Now I’m two years sober, and I can add another name to my list of role models: Daniel Carcillo. Carcillo used to be a fighter on the ice, but now he fights off the ice on Twitter to help raise awareness of the dangers of concussions and the NHL’s reluctance to admit fault in mental health issues related to concussions. He and his wife also created the Chapter 5 Foundation, which helps professional athletes and their spouses make the transition from their playing career to retirement. 

I guess, to make a long article extremely short, I’m thankful for hockey. Without hockey, my life would be vastly different. I can’t really imagine my life without hockey, to be honest. It’s shaped me so much. I found my life’s calling by watching hockey.

This Thanksgiving, before we gobble down our green bean casseroles and sweet potato pies, I think we should all take the time to think about what we’re grateful for.

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